Snohomish Health District officials gathered to accept a $250,000 check from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene on Thursday. (Kayla Dunn / The Herald)

Snohomish Health District officials gathered to accept a $250,000 check from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene on Thursday. (Kayla Dunn / The Herald)

Telehealth funds update Snohomish Health District beyond paper, pencil

$250,000 in federal funding could cut thousands of miles of travel for tuberculosis patients and rural residents.

EVERETT— A new telehealth program through the Snohomish Health District will eliminate an estimated 1,200 to 2,400 miles of travel for rural residents.

Currently, the health district operates on a paper-based program.

“They don’t travel well — paper and pencil,” Jennifer Egger, the health district’s communications coordinator laughed. “It’s pretty behind the times.”

The new program will make treatment more accessible and data more secure for tuberculosis patients, as well as those seeking maternity and pediatric care. It might come as a surprise that the county has seen at least 20 diagnosed cases of tuberculosis per year since 2017, a disease that requires significant assistance and time to manage.

“A 90-minute commute one way turns into three hours of your day, and that has a significant impact downstream on your work day and your ability to generate revenue,” Snohomish Health District Administrative Officer Shawn Frederick said.

The funding, secured by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, will go toward an electronic system for health records. The system will transfer patient data online and allow for virtual appointments, giving health district workers access to client records both from their offices and in the field.

“We need to catch up with the technology here,” said Katie Curtis, the health district’s director of prevention services, joking that this upgrade in systems is like jumping from a dot matrix printer to a wireless printer.

Curtis and her colleague Nicole Thomsen, the health district’s public and government affairs manager, submitted the funding application after seeing the needs of residents in the district.

DelBene’s staff fielded about 60 applications to fund federal projects in Washington’s 1st District. They refined the pool to a final 10. All of those were approved by Congress earlier this year, amounting to about $7 million in local projects spanning from Carnation to Nooksack.

DelBene presented an oversized $250,000 check to the health district Thursday.

Frederick acknowledged that while the telehealth system fills a dire need for the county, there’s still work to be done.

In 2019, the ratio was one full-time health district employee to every 6,500 residents, Frederick said.

“In the past decade — with the exception of the years in COVID — our staffing levels have consistently gone down almost every single year,” he said.

Frederick hopes to get more funding to hire more employees soon, but for now, the telehealth system will allow the district’s medical staff to make more efficient use of their time.

DelBene noted our health care system is “rapidly becoming digital,” and the new telehealth program will help people in rural parts of the county to take advantage of that.

“This will help improve health outcomes, and save patients and taxpayers money,” DelBene said. “This isn’t a one-time use program.”

Officials expect the telehealth program to be live within nine months.

Kayla Dunn: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

A view of a 6 parcel, 4.4 acre piece of land in Edmonds, south of Edmonds-Woodway High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Housing authority seeks more property in Edmonds

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County doesn’t have specific plans for land near 80th Avenue West, if its offer is accepted.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

Most Read