Technology Helping in Virginia

Each year, telemedicine provides secure video links to help thousands of Virginians access specialty care not available in their home communities. The University of Virginia (UVA) network serves more than 85 telemedicine locations enabling thousands of Virginians each year to access UVA physicians in more than 40 specialties without traveling to Charlottesville where the university is located.

To make it easier for residents of Southside Virginia and other rural localities to receive specialty care not readily available locally, a new state grant for $270,000 has been awarded to help patients and healthcare workers access specialists through telemedicine.

The Virginia Health Workforce Development initiative awarded the grant to establish the Southside Telehealth Training Academy and Resource Center (STAR) in Martinsville Virginia to be operated by the New College Institute, and the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth.

“Training healthcare workers to use telehealth and patient monitoring technologies will aid them in providing high quality care and services to their patients,” said Karen Rheuban, MD, Director for the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth.

Beginning in the spring, the center will begin training healthcare workers in the West Piedmont Health District of Martinsville and the counties of Franklin, Henry, and Patrick as well as training healthcare workers across Virginia in the use of telemedicine technology. STAR plans to train 250 workers in the program’s first 18 months.

The University of Virginia’s School of Medicine has a program referred to as “Positive Links”. This program is using smart phones to improve care for people recently diagnosed with HIV in rural Virginia. This electronic outreach effort won $525,000 in backing from the AIDS United Foundation.

The new initiative aims to overcome problems such as depression, stigma and poverty that often delay and undermine care for rural residents with HIV. A study found that people newly diagnosed with HIV missed on average 1.7 scheduled appointments before arriving at the UVA Ryan White Clinic, the largest provider of HIV care in western Virginia.

Specifically, the “Positive Links” program will provide:

  • A smartphone app that will provide personalized interactive reminders and offer access to a virtual community. The app will also monitor treatment adherence and potential barriers to care so that the UVA staff can respond nearly in real time
  • Counseling sessions based on the Antiretroviral Treatment and Services program endorsed by CDC will provide information on HIV and strategies for living with the virus. These lessons will be reinforced by the app
  • A priority access pathway for people newly diagnosed with HIV to ensure that these individuals receive care within 24 hours by contacting the ‘Positive Links” coordinator

The app is in development and the new “Positive Links” program is due to begin to recruit participants this summer.

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