Published on June 09, 2014

St. Vincent's CEO says veto of telemedicine funding will 'slow us down' in that area

 Reporter- Jacksonville Business Journal

Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $1.76 million to help expand the use of telemedicine across the state is “discouraging," said Moody Chisholm, CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare.

Moody Chisholm, CEO St. Vincent's HealthCareBut Chisholm said the rejection of $500,000 that St. Vincent’s was up for would not prevent the Jacksonville-based institution from moving further into this area of technology, which enables physicians to remotely diagnose and treat patients by way of the Internet and other telecommunications methods.

“It’s discouraging in that it hurts innovation,” Chisholm said. “We [as an industry] are being asked to stretch into new realms and invest in helping keep people healthier and we’re not being paid for that.”

The bill to expand telemedicine across certain regions of Florida was co-sponsored by Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park). It floundered on the legislative floor as legislators wrangled over exactly how the money would be used. Although it eventually passed, it was vetoed by Scott on June 2.

Telemedicine enables care providers in more rural areas to tap into the resources of a larger institution, including advanced technological equipment and the expertise of physicians and specialists on call 24/7 who can be pulled up on a video screen in a patient’s room.

Chisholm said the capabilities of telemedicine were especially useful in intensive care units, for example, in correctly diagnosing patients with certain stroke symptoms visible to the doctor on the other side of the camera and getting that patient the help they need right away.

“It allows us to intercede earlier before a patient’s condition begins to deteriorate,” Chisholm said.

St. Vincent’s HealthCare currently contracts with physicians across the nation who are available around-the-clock to remotely care for patients at its Clay County hospital.

The grant monies St. Vincent’s sought, Chisholm said, would have allowed the health network to more widely tap the use of telemedicine.

“We still will [expand its use], but it slows us down,” Chisholm said. “These days, capital is tight at hospitals.”

Other Jacksonville hospital networks also have telemedicine capabilities that they use to partner with smaller care providers across the region that lack the resources of a larger institution.