URMC, Five Star Bank launch telehealth initiative

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The University of Rochester Medical Center and Five Star Bank have joined forces to improve health care access and wellness outcomes in rural communities. Telehealth stations will be located at select bank branches as part of a pilot initiative.

URMC says banks offer the ideal physical location to bridge the geographic divide between patients and providers, offering a touchpoint to reach an underserved population.

The initiative has multiple partners including Five Star Bank; Higi, a consumer health engagement company; and DexCare, a patient demand and care platform. Higi’s telehealth-enabled smart health stations measure risk for high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke. The stations are located in private spaces at three Five Star Bank branches.

“This unique service is possible only because of the generous partners that banded together with a single, honorable mission: to improve the health of rural communities,” says Michael Hasselberg, URMC chief digital health officer. “Our capability to bring virtual care to patients went mainstream when needs arose during the pandemic. This pilot is the next evolution, bringing telemedicine to those who may lack access to technology at home. 

“They now can visit a trusted location in their community and get the care they need,” he adds, “as well as check key health indicators to promote preventive care.”

The health stations allow users to connect with UR Medicine providers through virtual appointments facilitated by DexCare’s virtual on-demand platform and connected to the internet by Verizon’s fixed wireless access, URMC says. It is the first time a health system and a financial institution have partnered to provide telemedicine-equipped health stations to rural communities, officials say.  

The pilot program will serve three rural communities–Bath, Ovid and Wayland–that have limited health care options and access to home broadband internet.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with such innovative and forward-thinking organizations as we work together to address what we see as a clear link between financial and physical well-being,” says Five Star Bank President and CEO Martin Birmingham. “As a community bank serving much of Western and Central New York, we understand the unique challenges our rural communities face. We also appreciate the transformative role technology can play and believe this pilot has the potential to meaningfully improve the long-term health of our overall region.”

It is widely known that rural communities experience health disparities. Residents of rural areas in the U.S. tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts, a November 2023 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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