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Telemedicine Software for Prisons: Costs, Pros, and Features of Prison Telemedicine

Providing adequate healthcare in a prison environment presents a variety of challenges. First, of course, is the remote location common to most prisons. America's provider shortage, particularly in remote areas, is severe, especially when it comes to specialists. Next is the challenge of finding physicians willing to treat patients in a prison setting, since transporting inmates to public healthcare facilities is often dangerous.

Many corrections centers have turned to telemedicine to solve this problem, with numbers growing as technology advances have helped make this solution more viable for all patients.

Advantages to Telemedicine in Prisons

America's laws guarantee prisoners receive appropriate medical attention. However, there is no avoiding the fact that many of the people incarcerated are truly dangerous, particularly if a healthcare provider refuses a particular request. Telemedicine helps keep doctors and other providers safe.

Treating patients with telehealth also saves money. Prisoner healthcare accounts for around 20 percent of a prison's budget, due to transportation costs and security during transport to and from healthcare facilities (and while in the facility). It also saves on the cost of doctors traveling to and from the prison. When patients are treated via telemedicine, they typically receive care sooner than if they have to wait for an in-person visit. This allows doctors to recognize symptoms early, while they're still easier to treat, and reduces the need for emergency intervention, potentially saving millions of dollars. Telemedicine also attracts more providers, as they feel greater personal safety and enjoy the convenience remote treatment offers.

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What is the Cost of Telemedicine Software?

Pricing depends on the size of your practice, the number of users you have, and your level of implementation.

  • Doxy.me has a free version, only available for single-provider practices. Patients may video or text chat without downloading any software. Paid plans for multi-provider practices start at $29 per month, per user.
  • eVisit allows providers to write electronic prescriptions, host a virtual waiting room, and perform medical billing for $249 per month, per user.
  • Sherpaa is not a software system; it is a platform that hires its own healthcare providers. Patients seeking telemedicine providers pay $40 per month, which grants him or her access to a group of doctors able to write prescriptions, make referrals, and order labs.
  • VSee offers physicians a virtual waiting room and patient self-scheduling for $499 per month.
  • WeCounsel is geared toward behavioral health providers, although it works for other practices and specialties as well. Available features include online scheduling, appointment reminders, remote payment, screen sharing, insurance eligibility checks, and claims submission. The cost is $24.99 per month, per user.
  • Zoom is not a software system; rather, it is a reliable videoconferencing app that works with any connected device. You get HIPAA-compliant screen sharing for $200 per month.

Additional Cost Considerations

In addition to the basic software and teleconferencing costs, you may need certain tools and devices to provide telehealth services.

  • Physicians also need to add medical devices such as an ENT scope, examination camera, and digital telescope, in order to complete basic examinations and gather patient vitals. The cost for a full set of exam implements ranges between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • A telemedicine cart or case is how you package your telehealth system. The ideal cart is modular and scalable, allowing it to grow as your program grows and move easily between providers. An all-in-one system includes the software, medical devices, and mobile cart, and costs between $20,000 and $30,000.
  • Training helps ensure you and your staff get the most out of your telehealth system. You want to offer two main training options, assuming you have on-site IT personnel. Clinicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers need basic training on how to use the system. Your technical staff require training on operating and maintaining the system. Costs range from around $200 to $2,000, depending on the number of users and complexity of your system.

Author: Angela Escobar

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