Grant will expand telehealth services to Southeast Alaska, saving patients a trip to Seattle

Bartlett Regional Hospital 2018 12 01
Bartlett Regional Hospital, pictured here on Dec. 1, 2018, is located at 3260 Hospital Drive in Juneau. Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center is planning to expand virtual access to specialists in partnership with Bartlett. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center got half a million dollars from the Rasmuson Foundation to fund virtual access to specialists for Southeast Alaska patients.

Rasmuson Foundation president and CEO Diane Kaplan says the pandemic raised the profile of telemedicine. She said that’s useful in Southeast when patients can’t travel.

“What our grant will do is expand virtual care, in partnership with Bartlett, for Alaska patients — and particularly many of the specialty areas where patients normally would have to travel back and forth between Juneau and Seattle to access the services of a specialist and then get the follow up care that they need and tracking,” Kaplan said.

The program will start with cardiology, medical oncology — that’s cancer care — and vascular services, or vein care. Patients will be able to access specialists in Seattle from their homes. The idea is to cut down on unnecessary flights.

“We do very, very, very few grants outside of Alaska can count them on two hands that we’ve ever done. But this one was the type of thing we would do if there’s a service being provided to Alaskans,” she said.

The money will go to technology and training for the Seattle hospital and its Southeast partners. Virginia Mason CEO Dr. Gary Kaplan says the hospital had long-ago identified the need for these services, but now the technology has caught up with the demand.

“This is going to help us improve access, which will improve quality, improve outcomes, improve functionality for people,” he said. “People will be happier because they’re able to access certain types of specialty care that they couldn’t access in their communities.”

Kaplan says this is likely to mean Alaska patients won’t wait as long for appointments with their specialists.

Those who typically travel to see their cardiologist or oncologist should expect to have a virtual option by next year.

Claire Stremple

Alaska News Reporter, KTOO

I believe every Alaskan has a right to timely information about their health and health systems, and their natural environment and its management. My goal is to report thoughtful stories that inform, inspire and quench the curiosity of listeners across the state.

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