Providence St. Joseph Health, Disability Culture & Tele-Medicine

Providence St. Joseph Health, Disability Culture & Tele-Medicine

How we provide effective healthcare in our country matters. Of course, we need to look at people as individuals. However, we also need to be mindful of cultural competence. Disability culture is a unique movement that considers the behaviors, belief systems, ways of living, and the historical context of the disabled. As a method of addressing the needs of this community, the United States Congress passed the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Part of the act, Section 504, stated that any agency that received federal funding could not discriminate against a person based on disability. When it comes to the healthcare sector, both public and privately owned healthcare facilities and providers, such as hospitals and clinics, fall under the purview of the ADA, under Title II and Title III respectively. Equal access not only refers to the physical structures but also extends to all digital properties… including Telemedicine.

ADA, Telemedicine & The Disabled:

With the advent of smartphones, even more progress has been made between the disabled community and health care providers while upholding ADA protection. Telemedicine combines telecommunications technology with diagnostic or healthcare advice. No longer do people with disabilities need to arrange for transport to a doctor or hospital. If you can use a smartphone, you are now able to connect with a qualified medical professional from the comfort of your living room.

Depending on your chosen provider, you only need to log into an App or website and create an account to register. From there, you will either wait to see a practitioner via a queue system or be immediately connected to a doctor. You speak via the camera on your smartphone, allowing the physician to conduct a brief medical history. By gathering information about the patient’s disability, medical personnel will able to assess its general impact. If the doctor believes further testing may be warranted, referrals can be sent directly to other providers and laboratory testing can be scheduled. Providers may also link to your local pharmacy for submitting prescription requests. Telemedicine can save the disabled community time, money, and most importantly alleviate the stress and frustration of long waiting periods.

Providence St. Joseph Health:

Providence St. Joseph Health has been a trailblazer in advocacy work and healthcare reform for vulnerable populations, including the disabled. They are consistently pursuing innovative ways to transform medicine by making their services more convenient, accessible and affordable for all.

Aaron Martin, Providence’s Chief Digital officer, says his team implores a thoughtful, yet careful approach to telemedicine. “There are so many opportunities for improvement in health care that you could spend your entire life chasing a bunch of small but very valuable ideas that, at full scale, aren’t as valuable as others. It’s a matter of prioritization.”

ID: A man sits in a wheelchair with his arms extended in an airplane motion. A red book bag hangs from the back of his chair.
ID: A man sits in a wheelchair with his arms extended in an airplane motion. A red book bag hangs from the back of his chair.

With over 119,000-plus caregivers/employees servicing 51 hospitals in more than 800 clinics, PSJH offers a comprehensive range of health and social services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington including:

St. Joseph Health in California and Texas,

Covenant Health in West Texas,

Facey Medical Foundation in Los Angeles, CA,

Hoag Memorial Presbyterian in Orange County, CA,

Kadlec in Southeast Washington,

Pacific Medical Centers in Seattle, WA,

Swedish Health Services in Seattle, WA.

Benefits of Telemedicine

Providence St. Joseph Health is leading the way to meet 21st-century health needs of consumers, physicians and communities by growing multistate telehealth programs that keep care delivery as close to home as possible. With over 1,500 dedicated caregivers, SJPH is serving as a health connector with one of the nation’s largest telehealth systems.

While the full benefits of telemedicine are still being explored, the culture of disability has once again shifted thanks to this evolution in healthcare. Here are just a few beneficial aspects of telemedicine:

Trusted care: Telemedicine has improved health outcomes for people with disabilities by providing access to quality, affordable health care services, which make the best use of available resources. According to SJPH, among its users, 98% percent said they would recommend the service to a co-worker for its ease of use, quality of care and convenience. Currently, eighty-one percent of users rate Providence Express Care Virtual visits as better or much better than traditional office visits. SJPH is consistently evaluating existing policies and services, identifying priorities to reduce health inequalities and planning improvements for access and inclusion.

Cost Savings: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lack of affordability for health services and transportation are two main reasons why people with disabilities do not receive needed medical treatment. 32-33% of non-disabled people are unable to afford health care compared to 51-53% of people with disabilities. The option of telemedicine helps reduce patient cost of copays for clinic visits, urgent care facility or the emergency department. Individuals living with a disability can find relief in knowing transportation barriers like the cost of gas, tolls, Para-transit, or car service need no longer cause concern. Worries about uneven access to buildings, poor signage, and inaccessible parking are totally diminished because qualified, dependable medical care comes with a touch of your smartphone.

Time Savings: Unemployment rates are staggering within the disabled community. In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported only 18.7 percent of people with a disability were employed. On average Telemedicine saves each user approximately two hours of missed work time. Those two hours are invaluable to disabled individuals who may fear a sudden illness could impact the status of their job stability.

Connected Care: PSJH is empowering people with disabilities to maximize their health by providing information, training, and peer support. Patients always receive a visit summary, including recommended next steps for follow up in an ADA compliant format. Telemedicine can provide referrals for imaging or follow-up care, as well as a prescription.

Blind Motherhood’s Perspective:

There appears to be an unwritten rule in the proverbial parenting handbook that says “mothers are not allowed to get sick.” Our families need us, and when mommy is unwell the entire household quickly falls apart. As a blind mom and cancer survivor, I know my health should be a priority, but I’ll admit I often feel too busy to stop and take care of myself. The evolution of Telemedicine has been instrumental in allowing me to connect with qualified health care providers. I no longer worry about orchestrating a trip to my local urgent care with two small children and my guide dog in tow. Providence St. Joseph Health has reminded me that in order to care for my family, I need to first care for myself.

PSJH Sets The Standard:

When a medical provider develops services with the disabled community in mind, you know the foundation of that institution is built on trust. Express Care through telemedicine is about delivering convenience—high-quality care for minor conditions when and how a patient wants it, at lower cost,” explained Martin. “Today we serve you when you’re sick. Tomorrow we want to partner with you all the time to help improve your health.”

Providence St. Joseph’s Health is a catalyst in the formation of telemedicine and is setting a precedent that can be utilized by other health care providers across the county promoting inclusive, accessible practices for all. For more information of Providence St. Joseph Health click HERE.

**Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post written by Blind Motherhood for Providence St. Joseph Health Care (PSJH). 


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  1. I noticed that no New York providers are listed in the Providence network. How are you able to access the care from this network when you live in another state?

    1. Services vary from state to state. For my insurance, I use a similar technology called TELE-DOC. It’s amazing. Providence was really the gold standard in starting this technology and rolling it out with the disabled in mind.

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