How Telehealth Is Transforming Correctional Healthcare

August 11, 2017 by InTouch Health

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are currently about 2.3 million people in U.S. jails and prisons, a population roughly the size of Houston, America’s fourth largest city. When you include those on probation or parole, that number swells to 6.8 million.

A paper soon to be published in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health is the latest of many telehealth success stories in the correctional field. The paper reveals that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services achieved a rapid 32-month payback on its initial $1.2 million capital investment in telehealth. The network is run by Wexford Health and brings numerous specialty services to inmates, including cardiology, gastroenterology, and urology. These services are critically needed because an estimated 27% of prisoners have a chronic health condition that they fail to report at admission.

Here are some other recent examples of how telehealth is transforming correctional healthcare:

■ According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, telehealth has cut inmate healthcare costs by nearly half in the state of Texas (which now spends just $3,805 per prisoner annually compared to the national average of $6,047).

■At New York City’s massive Rikers Island jail complex, where 55,000 inmates arrive each year, telehealth allows prisoners to be treated rapidly. Previously, they had to spend six to eight hours shackled in traffic to be seen in-person by a physician.

The new Maryland study was co-authored by H. Neal Reynolds, MD, medical director of the Maryland Critical Care Network at the Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Reynolds has also been a tireless champion for progressive telehealth laws in his state. Armed with this new study, he’ll be able to show Maryland lawmakers one more example of how telehealth is succeeding far beyond what anyone imagined even five years ago.