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Innovative Telehealth Initiative Launches in Rural New York

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In a groundbreaking effort to enhance healthcare access and outcomes in Upstate New York’s rural areas, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has unveiled a novel initiative. This pioneering project introduces telehealth stations within local bank branches, aiming to mitigate the healthcare accessibility gap faced by rural communities.

This initiative, a collaborative effort among URMC and several partners including Five Star Bank, Higi, DexCare, Inc., and Verizon Business, represents an innovative approach to healthcare delivery. By leveraging the ubiquitous presence of banks in rural towns, the project aims to offer a crucial link between healthcare providers and patients in underserved areas.

URMC’s Chief Digital Health Officer, Michael Hasselberg, Ph.D., highlighted the collective mission of the partners to enhance rural health as the driving force behind this service. He noted that the advent of virtual care, which gained prominence during the pandemic, set the stage for this next step in telemedicine, specifically targeting those without home technology access. This service allows individuals to visit familiar community locations to receive necessary care and monitor vital health indicators, fostering preventative healthcare practices.

This collaboration marks the first instance of a health system and financial institution coming together to deploy telemedicine-equipped health stations in rural settings. Martin K. Birmingham, President and CEO of Five Star Bank, expressed pride in the partnership, emphasizing the project’s potential to significantly improve regional health over the long term.

The initiative addresses the significant health disparities faced by rural Americans, who are more susceptible to various diseases compared to their urban counterparts. By installing Higi Telehealth-Enabled Smart Health Stations in select Five Star Bank branches, the project enables residents to conduct virtual consultations with UR Medicine providers, facilitated by DexCare’s platform and Verizon’s connectivity solutions.

This effort is not only a testament to the power of collaboration but also a crucial step towards bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable healthcare access for rural communities in the Finger Lakes Region and beyond.

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