Formed in 2008, the Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth focuses on increasing access to health care through innovative use of technology, including telemedicine, health information exchange, and telehealth.

The partnership has its roots in the Georgia Telemedicine Program, which began in 2005 through a grant from WellPoint.

The Georgia Telemedicine Program was built based on advances in the continually evolving telecommunications and computer industries and on successes and lessons learned from other telemedicine programs.

The hallmark of Georgia Telemedicine is the Open Access Network, which is a web of statewide access points based on strategic partnerships with successful existing telemedicine programs, and the creation of new telemedicine locations to maximize opportunities for timely specialty services.

When fully realized, the program will enable all rural Georgians to access specialty care within 30 miles of their homes. Because there are so few specialist physicians in Georgia, the telemedicine program implemented the Internal Program Collaboration Website to centralize scheduling of specialist consultations.

By tracking open appointment times for panel specialists anywhere in the state, specialist consults via telemedicine can now be requested and scheduled statewide in a matter of days or even hours, instead of weeks or months.

A report was released this month based on two years of experience using telemedicine to improve access and balance resources for Mental Services and Psychiatry in a five-facility pilot in Georgia linking skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric clinicians, and an emergency room.