Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release: August 2, 2001

OHIO PRISONERS VISIT THE DOCTOR VIA TELEMEDICINE

Columbus --- The cost of providing medical care to prison inmates is considerable, approximately $126 million a year, or 10 percent of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s (DRC) annual budget. The Department continues to target this area as one where costs can and must be contained. Initiatives in recent years have included using some privatization, the clustering of medical contracts in institutions and the use of telemedicine.

The Department recently completed its 20,000 telemedicine consult. The program was initiated in 1994 to save money and increase public safety by replacing costly transportation runs to and from prisons and the Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) with a video network. The program initially linked OSUMC, the Corrections Medical Center and the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The network, now in place at all DRC prisons, averages approximately 5,100 consults per year. Twelve specialty clinics are available, including pulmonary, cardiology, dietary, psychiatry, surgery, neurosurgery and nephrology. Typically, an inmate and an institution medical employee describe the particular symptoms and relay test results via communication lines to the OSUMC. The OSUMC physician then prescribes the appropriate care. The "visit" is accomplished within the institution’s security perimeter and without the use of transportation vans, escorting officers and overtime costs. In addition to a reduction in staff overtime, benefits include a significant impact on public safety and improved continuity of care for Ohio’s inmate population.

The use of the videoconferencing network is not limited to medical consults. The lines are also used for mental health interviews with the courts, Parole Board hearings, state-wide DRC meetings and DRC’s nationally–recognized Job Linkage program. Job Linkage allows prospective employers in urban centers to "interview" inmates incarcerated in Ohio’s prisons. Eligible inmates have received specialized job training and are approaching their release date. DRC also recently entered into an agreement with Federal District Courts to conduct hearings and depositions with inmates in Ohio institutions via videoconferencing.

For further information on DRC’s use of teleconferencing please contact the DRC Public Information Office at (614) 752-1150.