Telehealth Alliance of Oklahoma, Inc (TAO) grew out of a need for a group of telehealth experts to work together to promote the effective adoption and expansion of telehealth through education and technical assistance, and serve as a resource for government agencies for telehealth related issues. Twenty-two organizations worked together to create this organization.
The Alliance offers educational and technical assistance to organizations and individuals to promote telehealth integration in the state. The Alliance will also continue to serve as a telehealth information resource for state and federal government agencies.
The purpose of the Alliance is to educate and provide technical assistance to healthcare providers as a means of reducing service barriers to the underserved and/or those living in rural Oklahoma.
Telemedicine was first implemented in Oklahoma in 1993 with over 45 rural hospitals, 15 regional hospitals, and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Oklahoma was an early pioneer in the development, utilization and reimbursement of Store and Forward telemedicine. Store and Forward telemedicine is the transmission of medical data such as still images of radiology and dermatology to a remote specialist for assessment at a later time.
Oklahoma was a national leader in telehealth adoption, passing the Oklahoma Telemedicine Act (SB2048 – Oklahoma statues 36-6801) in 1997 to mandate reimbursement for telemedicine for all health care service plans, disability insurer programs, workers’ compensation programs, or state Medicaid managed care program contracts to include coverage for telemedicine services, where appropriate as determined by a health care practitioner.
Oklahoma addressed the telehealth barrier of broadband expense. Oklahoma Special Universal Services Funds legislation states: a single broadband line used for telemedicine to be provided free of charge to an eligible healthcare entity within the State, as the entity’s telemedicine equipment and service applications require. (revision HB.2738 – 2011, section 139.109). Rural not-for-profit hospitals, public health departments, correctional facilities, federally qualified health centers (FQHC), and community mental health clinics as eligible sites for Oklahoma Universal Service Funds (updated May 2012).
Telemedicine in Oklahoma is not centralized, but primarily offered through distributed and collaborative telemedicine networks and individual providers.
The introduction of wireless technology and the internet has changed the affordability and accessibility of telemedicine and related applications.