Having completed all of my medical education and training thus far at a tertiary care center, I’ve met many patients who have travelled long distances for their care. Whether its a patient facing advanced heart failure, malignancy, or a neurologic disorder, they have often been forced to drive hours in each direction to see a physician with the necessary expertise. And the problem is even worse with pediatrics.
Telemedicine services in six mid-Atlantic states and Washington D.C. received a boost recently thanks to a $1 million grant given to the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth. The grant will be used by the Center for Health to create the Telehealth Resource Center which will support services in Washington D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. The University of Virginia program will serve to link specialized medical services at the academic center in Charlottesville to rural communities where such care is not available.
As we recently discussed, Medicare is expanding its coverage of telehealth services. What makes Virginia in particular a great nexus for telemedecine programs in the region is their mandate that insurance companies cover telehealth services, passed over a year ago and unique in the region.
“We are delighted that HRSA has provided us with this opportunity to share models of care provided via telehealth with our partners across the mid-Atlantic region,” says Karen Rheuban, MD, Director of UVA’s Center for Telehealth. “It will be a privilege to collaborate with distinguished institutions to further improve access to care using advanced and innovative technologies.”
One important thing to remember is that telemedicine is much more broad than a physician linked to a patient through a webcam. It can be as simple as two providers mulling over a case on their smartphones or as complicated as doing robotic surgery from across the globe. Similarly, the potential impact of programs like the Telehealth Resource Center is also potentially quite broad.
“The UVA telemedicine network includes more than 85 locations across Virginia. Thousands of Virginians receive care annually through telemedicine, enabling them to access services not available within their own community. UVA estimates that its telemedicine program has saved Virginians more than 6.7 million miles of travel for medical care, says David Cattell-Gordon, Director of UVA’s Office of Telemedicine.”