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Delaware tries telemedicine to lower prison health costs | Weitzman Institute

Delaware tries telemedicine to lower prison health costs

Delaware tries telemedicine to lower prison health costs

Delaware is trying to lower the cost of providing healthcare to prisoners with a new form of telemedicine called eConsults.

Delaware rolled out eConsults in May. In essence, it’s a prison primary care doctor emailing with a specialist for advice on an inmate’s condition.

It sounds rudimentary, but it’s a jump forward in prison healthcare. In the past, a doctor would have sent an inmate outside the prison walls to see a specialist.

"They also have the option of bringing a specialist to the prison," according to Kevin Massey of the Weitzman Institute, which created the eConsults.

But both of those options are expensive.

Delaware’s Department of Corrections spends up to $1 million a year moving inmates for medical reasons. And there’s always security risks when you transport an inmate into a community facility.

“But from our research we’ve found that a significant majority of questions that come up from primary care can be resolved with a simple communication initiated from the primary care provider to the specialist,” Massey said.

A primary care doctor can treat an inmate with a specialist’s advice about 70 percent of the time, according to data from eConsults in other states.

And if you can lower the cost of transporting inmates you can lower the cost of prison healthcare.

“Lowering [the cost of transporting inmates] will result in significant savings,”  Delaware Department of Corrections Bureau Chief Marc Richman said in a statement.