Between limited avenues of travel, rugged terrain, and a lack of internet in some areas, rural consumers in West Virginia face a number of obstacles to overcome when seeking health care in-state. In response to this, Steve Davis, Ph.D., an associate professor with the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Public Health, and his team are preparing to launch a pilot program that utilizes telehealth to connect rural West Virginians with clinical professionals who can help manage heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke.
While WVU Medicine continues to adopt telemedicine as a means of cutting down on travel to physical locations for outpatient services, according to Dr. Davis, the program is centered on prevention of hospital re-admissions and emergency room visits. Set to start in fall 2019, the program will enroll 30 rural West Virginians who are receiving services through Medicaid “traumatic brain injury” or “aged and disabled” waiver programs. The participants will have recently left a long-term care facility. The former consumers are likely have a range of conditions they must manage at home, including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
The participants will be given a scale, a thermometer, and devices to track glucose levels, blood pressure, and blood oxygenation. Once taught how to use these devices, the participants’ relevant medical data will be transmitted and monitored 24/7 by nurses who will notify them if needed. As many consumers live in areas with no internet or cellular service, the program was designed to incorporate devices that can transmit data via landline connection. The research team will also implement semi-monthly calls from nurses to monitor pain levels and mental well-being.
Additionally, the cost-effectiveness of the program will be monitored upon its conclusion. The expectation being that the number of hospitalizations or re-admissions to long-term care facilities will be driven down by preventative care via telehealth monitoring.
The WVU Health System, WVU Medicine’s largest component, is a non-profit corporation and West Virginia’s largest employer. Its hospitals include a 690-bed academic medical center, four community hospitals, three critical access hospitals, and a children’s hospital. The health system’s flagship academic medical center also has a variety of clinical and operational affiliations with dozens of hospitals across the West Virginia-Pennsylvania-Maryland region. The health system has more than 1,000 active medical staff members and 1,450 beds. The faculty practice plan and the School of Medicine have 410 residents, 38 ACGME-accredited programs, and 12 special fellowships. The faculty practice also operates several clinics across West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
This was reported by West Virginia News on September 8, 2019.
Contact information: WVU Medicine, 1 Medical Center Drive, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506; 304-598-4000; Website: http://wvumedicine.org