FAQs About ACCESS Telemedicine

University of New Mexico ACCESS Telemedicine began in 2014 as a grant-funded initiative to increase access to neurology and neurosurgery care in hospitals statewide. Today, it is a self-supporting program that provides telestroke and other telehealth care to nearly half of the state’s hospitals.

Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about telehealth and ACCESS Telemedicine. Whether you are a patient, provider, hospital administrator or payer, we want you to have the information you need about telehealth consultations.

ACCESS Telemedicine is a nonprofit that uses sophisticated but easy-to-use technology to expand access to neurological care.

When a patient comes to a hospital emergency department with a possible neurological issue, local providers can use ACCESS Telemedicine to reach an accurate diagnosis and choose a treatment path. A UNM neurologist or neurosurgeon helps by examining the patient over the Internet. It’s like a video call with a friend or relative, using a private, high-speed connection and special technology.

The specialist reviews imaging and tests, examines the patient’s pupil dilation, and talks with the patient, the patient’s family and the local doctor about recommended next steps. Find out more about how ACCESS Telemedicine works.

While most telemedicine services only consult on stroke (telestroke), ACCESS Telemedicine is different. Our specialists consult on any neurology or neurosurgery issue. Learn about the conditions we treat.

In 2018, when ACCESS Telemedicine became self-sustaining, nearly half of New Mexico hospitals used the system. ACCESS Telemedicine is available to any hospital in New Mexico. See the full list of our hospital partners.

How can I be sure my loved one is getting appropriate care from telemedicine?

ACCESS Telemedicine consultations are provided by highly trained, experienced neurologists and neurosurgeons. Consulting specialists work closely with local physicians in your community.

Most of our consulting specialists are on-staff physicians at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. To ensure coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we sometimes call on other carefully vetted specialists in Denver or other areas. These physicians are all licensed to treat patients in New Mexico.

UNM’s neurology and neurosurgery department offers a high level of care. UNM is the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. The Joint Commission has certified UNM as an Advanced Primary Care Stroke Center, meaning we meet specific standards for stroke testing, neurosurgery and patient outcomes. Learn more about UNM: neuro-emergent care leaders.

How much does a telemedicine consultation cost?

Your health plan determines your cost for a telemedicine consultation. In most cases, your payment is the same as it would be if you saw a specialist in person. Check with your health plan to learn more.

Will I still receive personal care from my local doctor?

Yes. Your physician continues to recommend health care decisions. Your doctor will discuss the situation with you and your family. The consulting specialist offers expert advice.

In some cases, patients need to transfer to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque for advanced care. But with support from ACCESS Telemedicine, many more people can remain at their local hospital. Whether you transfer or not, your doctor may be able to provide your follow-up care close to home. Learn more from our telemedicine success stories.

It isn’t possible to perform surgery from a distance! How does neurosurgery telehealth work? Neurosurgery telemedicine does not mean that the surgery is performed remotely or by someone who is not a neurosurgical specialist. Rather, it means that a neurosurgeon helps your local doctor decide whether you need to be transferred to another hospital for neurosurgery. In many cases, specialty evaluation via ACCESS Telemedicine helps doctors determine that surgery isn’t needed.

What if the news isn’t good?

Occasionally, a diagnosis is not hopeful. Your doctor and the consulting specialist will work together to understand the situation and explain your options. In these cases, some families particularly appreciate the ACCESS Telemedicine consultation. Telehealth can help families avoid a potential transfer to a faraway hospital that would not result in a better outcome. Instead, their loved one can remain close to home, spending time in familiar surroundings, among family and friends.

Will telehealth consultations mean I no longer treat my patients?

No. Just as with any patient you treat, you will still recommend your patient’s care plan, after discussing the situation with the ACCESS Telemedicine specialist. Any patient whom you would normally continue to treat will remain your patient after the telehealth consultation.

What types of education are available to me through ACCESS Telemedicine?

ACCESS Telemedicine provides several options for education — many of which offer CME credits. We provide some education on-site at your hospital, with other options that include virtual grand rounds and online educational seminars. Get more information about education and training.

I’m a qualified specialist. How can I get involved?

If you are a neurologist or neurosurgeon licensed to practice medicine in New Mexico, you can contact our technology partner for more information about our credentialing process. See how to get involved.

What do hospitals need to do to join ACCESS Telemedicine?

We have a thorough application and preparation process. Hospitals should begin the process as soon as they are ready. It takes about six months to complete the application and setup. Hospitals can get more information about:

  • Hospitals currently using ACCESS Telemedicine: Many New Mexico hospitals are already using teleneurology consultation. Learn more about our hospital partners.
  • Technology needs: The technology setup for telehealth consultation is straightforward and affordable. Review the technology requirements.
  • Next steps to join: Download a list of preparatory steps for hospitals before starting the contracting process. Learn how to get involved.

What do hospitals gain from ACCESS Telemedicine?

ACCESS Telemedicine offers many benefits for hospitals:

  • Affordable technology: Our telehealth cart is reasonably priced, and the technology has only a nominal annual maintenance fee for software updates.
  • Pay-as-you-go arrangement: Hospitals pay only for the consultations they use. There is no subscription fee.
  • Strong ROI: Hospitals report a 16-to-1 return on investment for ACCESS Telemedicine consultations compared to hospital admission costs. This value is very high for New Mexico’s small hospitals, in particular.
  • Patient retention: When hospitals treat patients themselves, rather than transferring them to other facilities, they can offer more continuous care and retain revenues. Patients benefit, too, with high-quality care provided close to home, at lower cost to them.
  • Physician support: Whether doctors have training in neurology or not, with ACCESS Telemedicine, they are not alone in assessing and treating complex medical situations. Instead, they can call on an expert in moments, 24/7.
  • Provider education and training: Intensive, on-site instruction gives providers confidence and skills to care for the majority of neurological problems. During a consultation, doctors understand why the neurologist or neurosurgeon is making a certain recommendation. As ED providers change, we return and continue the process.

Our medical staff changes frequently. Can we still use UNM ACCESS Telemedicine?

Yes. In fact, ACCESS Telemedicine is an ideal solution to help bridge the gap in New Mexico’s critical access hospitals. These hospitals see providers move frequently or rely on hospitalists for vital care. ACCESS Telemedicine gives these facilities a dependable source of diagnostic and treatment advice for neuro-emergent care and follow-up.

We already have telehealth audiovisual equipment in place. Can we use our existing equipment?

Possibly. We will need to make sure your equipment is compatible with ACCESS Telemedicine requirements. If our technology vendor agrees that your existing equipment is compatible, we can use what you have. Learn more about ACCESS Telemedicine technology requirements.

How do payers benefit from ACCESS Telemedicine?

Payers benefit directly through lower costs and indirectly through improved patient outcomes. ACCESS Telemedicine offers these benefits:

  • Improved specialist access: With ACCESS Telemedicine, virtual neurology and neurosurgery consultation can be available at all New Mexico hospitals. Less waiting time for an appropriate diagnosis means patients receive timely treatment.
  • More appropriate care: Faster diagnosis is vital when treating conditions such as stroke. And a neurosurgical evaluation can help local doctors make informed decisions about surgery and patient transfer. Both can create better patient outcomes.
  • Cost savings via the right care setting: Avoiding unnecessary patient transfer can save up to $40,000 per case in air transfer costs alone. And local care, when appropriate, makes it more likely that patients will receive follow-up care — keeping them healthier in the long run.