Healthcare behind bars: Can technology improve outcomes for inmates?
Making a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t a whole lot of fun for anyone. But if you happen to be in jail, well, it’s downright grueling.
You can probably picture it based on what you’ve seen on TV and in the movies: the searches, the restraints, the uncomfortable bus ride–all part of the reason why inmates often refuse to see a doctor if it means being transported to another facility.
But avoiding doctor visits can lead to some pretty bad outcomes down the road, especially when your health isn’t great to begin with. According to the Bureau of Justice, 44.7% of jail inmates report having a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes–nearly twice the rate of the general population (26.9%).1 And when it comes to mental illness, the numbers are even higher. More than half (64.2%) of inmates have a mental health problem, compared with only 11% of the general population age 18 and older.2
When New York City Health and Hospitals, the largest municipal health care system in the United States, went looking to solve this problem, they found the perfect solution–in technology. How? You guessed it: telemedicine. For clinical encounters that don’t require a physical exam, it’s the perfect fit. Video-based telehealth is already taking off in private healthcare organizations (see our infographic for more on this rising trend), so it only makes sense that it would work in a public setting, too.
So far, the telehealth program is going very well–with plans to expand in the future.
One early success is the management of Hepatitis C, a viral infection common among inmates. (According to the CDC, there are 2.2 million people in U.S. jails and prisons, and one in three have the disease.3) Using telehealth to treat Hepatitis C is “a relatively new approach,” said Dr. Dr. Vingh Pham, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Bellevue. “But with Cisco collaboration, it feels very natural.” He notes that every telehealth session to date has ended positively, without the need for security intervention.
Click the button below to read more about NYC Health + Hospitals’ journey to improve the patient and staff experience, reduce transportation and security costs, and see more patients in less time.