As patients and providers alike realize the benefits of a rapidly expanding telehealth industry, there is one resource out there that every provider should check out — the Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs).  TRCs provide assistance, education and information to any organization or individual either providing or interested in providing medical care at a distance. Their only reason for existence, essentially, is to assist in expanding the availability of health care to underserved populations.

TRCs are funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, which is part of the Office of Rural Health Policy. And, being federally funded, the assistance they provide is generally free of charge.

Nationally, there are 14 TRCs, including 12 regional centers, 2 national centers. While twelve of the TRCs have a regional focus, all TRCs participate as a consortium to provide information and assistance to all requests. What does this mean to you as a provider? Even if you regional TRC can’t answer the questions you have, the national consortium will.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Bob Wolverton of the Northwest Region Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC) and discuss the impact of the TRCs and of telehealth on the Northwest U.S. The passionate team at the NRTRC is helping improve care to even the most rural patients in their region. They are also working hard on their upcoming annual conference.

Most regions hold annual events to bring together influencers and practitioners in their regions. The NRTRC is holding its sixth annual conference in Seattle from April 10-12, 2017. With the overarching theme of Next Generation Healthcare: Optimizing Your Telehealth Programs, the conference provides a mix of educational and networking opportunities as well as access to an exhibit hall spotlighting the latest in technology and service offerings

The keynote speaker is telehealth visionary Nick Adkins, who is focused on helping people think about new ways to structure care provision. There will also be two full days of session presentations covering subjects crucial to telehealth including network security, legal structure, use of metadata and ethical dilemmas.

In addition, NRTRC has partnered with the Telehealth Technology Assessment Center to offer a technology lab where providers can test telehealth peripherals on mock patients at a different location. “This will let them experience firsthand what it is like to use these tools in a real telehealth environment. They can judge quality and see how they work so that they can determine whether or not they would be a good addition to their arsenal,” says Bob Wolverton, NRTRC program director. “This also give the various technology providers the opportunity to see how their devices couple with other technologies on the market as well as identify any challenges they could address with future releases.”

There will also be two pre-conference classes – Telehealth 101 and 102. The goal of Telehealth 101 is to provide information on the basics of starting a telehealth program from equipment to provision of care considerations. Telehealth 102 analyzes each state within the NRTRC region to give attendees a perspective on legal and regulatory differences to telehealth.

“While attendees can expect to garner knowledge from our many sessions, possibly the most important part of this conference is the opportunity to network with other attendees,” he says. “It’s a huge opportunity to get advice and assistance from peers, which is crucial as telehealth continues to grow.”

Interested in connecting with your regional TRC? Find it here.