Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network (AFHCAN): A Telehealth Project of the Federal Health Care Parnership (2000)

Brian Saylor, PhD, MPH
Denny DeGross, MA
Beth Landon, MBA, MHA

The Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership (AFHCP)

About six years ago, federal agencies in Alaska (Indian Health Service, Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, Coast Guard) began to look for ways to cut health care costs by sharing resources. In the first year, more than $1 million was saved in the delivery of health care to federal beneficiaries: Each year the savings has increased, with nearly $11 million saved last year. In 1997, with assistance from Senator Stevens, the Federal Partnership secured a $30 million grant to provide telehealth and telemedicine services to Federal beneficiaries through a program called the Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network (AFHCAN).

Assessment of Needs and Assets

From January 1999 through December 1999, the Alaska Center for Rural Health (ACRH) and the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) met regularly with AFHCAN staff to discuss the assessment process and how to integrate it into the larger project. As the AFHCAN project itself evolved, so did the assessment. In September 1999, ACRH and ICHS submitted their report on AFHCAN's pilot assessment of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

The SEARHC report included an assessment of the organization's "readiness" to participate in telehealth and the organization's health priorities. Assessments of technical infrastructure, business/sustainability, and clinical workflow were the responsibility of other parties. Data for the readiness assessment component were derived from a survey sent to all employees in May, as well as a series of focus groups and key informant interviews conducted in August. The health priorities were a composite of multiple data sources including the SEARHC strategic plan.

One copy of the final report was submitted to the AFHCAN Project Office and the other was sent to SEARHC. These organizations may be contacted for copies of the report or excerpts from it. 

Further Assessments

After submission of the pilot assessment report, ACRH and ICHS staff continued to meet with AFHCAN staff to refine the assessment process. At the request of AFHCAN, ICHS staff presented and discussed the assessment process at Tanana Chiefs Conference and Bassett Army Hospital. However, due to funding constraints (there are no funds for assessment in the budget), AFHCAN was unable to contract future assessments to ACRH and ICHS.

The AFHCAN Project Office has since hired dedicated assessment and evaluation staff. Using tools and concepts developed by ACRH and ICHS, the AFHCAN Project Office has elected to conduct stream-lined assessments on its own. ACRH and ICHS believe this is economically in the best interests of the AFHCAN project.