– After receiving a large federal grant, UVA Health and a Southwest Virginia-based coalition of healthcare groups aim to enhance virtual healthcare access to help improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients and those with chronic health conditions in the state.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients faced struggles related to care access and adverse health outcomes.
This issue is particularly apparent in various Virginia counties such as Norton, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, and Wise, the press release noted. In these counties, adults between 35 and 64 face health risks such as a 30 percent higher chance of dying earlier, a 21 percent higher likelihood of dying due to heart disease, 14 percent higher odds of dying from diabetes, a 35 percent higher chance of dying from COPD, and 10 percent higher odds of dying from a stroke. The press release also noted that these regions face physician shortages for primary and specialty care and worse health outcomes compared to other Virginia areas.
With a set of Southwest Virginia healthcare groups, UVA Health aims to expand access to telehealth and combat the chronic health problems among residents in these areas by forming the Virginia Consortium to Advance Health in Appalachia.
This consortium includes the UVA Center for Telehealth, the Healthy Appalachia Institute at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, the Southwest Virginia Health Authority, the Health Wagon, Tri-Area Health, and Ballad Health. The goal of the coalition is to improve outcomes among patients battling COVID-19 and other chronic health conditions that worsened amid the pandemic.
“There is an urgent need for community-academic partnerships such as this one to assess and respond to health inequities in Virginia’s Appalachian communities,” said David L. Driscoll, PhD, director of the Healthy Appalachia Institute, in a press release. “Our Consortium is committed to understanding, and most importantly, responding to the determinants of population health disparities in Appalachia, including adequate access to comprehensive public health and medical services.”
The goal of expanding access involves the use of many different virtual care services and technology. Through an expansion of interactive home monitoring services, patients can use tablets, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and scales to monitor cardiovascular disease factors. Further, the organizations will support virtual urgent care services, initially launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows sick patients with non-emergency conditions to engage in virtual visits.
The grant will also help expand UVA Health’s Isolation Communication Management System to enable safer isolation care in hospitals and outpatient clinics by providing an audiovisual system to communicate with isolated patients and providers in the room. Also, the grant will support the expansion of UVA Health’s post-COVID-19 care clinic by using telehealth technology to treat patients with long-term symptoms.
Finally, the consortium will expand two state-funded regional programs that focus on providing virtual mental healthcare and chronic disease prevention and management services and extend UVA Health’s Project ECHO, which offers provider education on COVID-19 and post-COVID care and access to virtual consults with UVA specialists.
Increasingly, providers are bolstering virtual care options to expand access to care.
Earlier this month, Ballad Health Medical Associates added resources to assist patients in accessing virtual and in-person primary care, urgent care, and quick care.
The organization implemented resources that enable patients to take part in in-person visits at a primary or urgent care clinic, as well as virtual visits with a physician. It also provides an online resource that allows patients to describe symptoms.
Source: M Health Intelligence