To make it easier for patients in rural areas of Virginia to access care, UVA Health is teaming with six community health organizations to provide at-home monitoring.
Backed by more than $700,000 in grants from the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each of the six partners will receive 40 reusable patient-monitoring kits, including tablets with an internet connection and medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and scales.
“These grants enable the delivery of new, updated telemedicine equipment to our partners and allow them to utilize remote monitoring tools to improve care coordination and clinical outcomes for the patients they serve,” said Karen S. Rheuban, MD, Director of the UVA Center for Telehealth and a UVA School of Medicine faculty member.
The partner sites:
- Bath Community Hospital (Hot Springs)
- Bland County Medical Clinic (Bastian)
- Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (Tazewell)
- Tri-Area Community Health (Laurel Fork)
- Central Virginia Health Services (Farmville)
- Monacan Indian Nation (Madison Heights – joining the program later this year)
Supported by UVA Health’s Department of Population Health, five of the six health centers will focus their home monitoring efforts on patients with heart failure, while Central Virginia Health Services will support pregnant women at higher risk for giving birth prematurely. Some of the patients in the program will have been discharged from UVA Medical Center back to their home communities, while other patients will be selected by the community health organizations. Patients will receive the home monitoring equipment for free while they are part of the program.
“We can save patients travel time, and patients can connect with their healthcare providers through text messages and video as well as send photos and conduct virtual visits,” said Novella Thompson, UVA Health’s Administrator for Population Health.
By streamlining the connection between patients and their healthcare team, the goal is to improve patients’ health and avoid hospital readmissions and other serious health events.
“Patients will be monitored on a more regular basis by trained professionals who can determine if something is changing or if a negative health event has happened,” said James L. Werth Jr., PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Tri-Area Community Health. “This can prevent problems from getting worse or, in some extreme cases, may help save a person’s life.”
In addition, the six partner sites will share best practices on how to implement remote patient monitoring in rural areas and overcome challenges such as spotty internet connectivity. The six sites will also join UVA Health’s Project ECHO, which connects UVA specialists with primary-care providers for mentoring and continuing education sessions designed to expand the scope of care available at primary-care centers across the commonwealth.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with UVA and their willingness to share their expertise and resources with our patients and staff,” Werth said. “This is a great example of how a university can ‘spread the wealth’ to community-based nonprofit organizations that couldn’t afford to implement such a program without help.”