More residents of far southwest Virginia will have access to screenings for breast and cervical cancer and to a broad range of specialty and sub-specialty medical services thanks to a grant announced yesterday by U.S. Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District.
According to Boucher, the Office of Telemedicine at the University of Virginia Health System has received a $227,613 grant from the Health Resource Service Administration to add three new sites in far southwest Virginia to its network. Two sites – Tazewell Community Health in North Tazewell and Meadowview Health Center in Meadowview – will join the UVA telemedicine network by the end of 2008. The third location – Bassett Family Practice in Bassett – will be added in 2009.
The Tazewell and Meadowview facilities are part of Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS), an alliance of nonprofit community healthcare centers. Four other SVCHS members – Saltville, Troutdale and Twin City Medical Centers and Whitetop Community Health – are already linked to the UVA telemedicine network.
The new locations will increase the number of UVA telemedicine sites in far southwest Virginia to 27. More than three dozen other sites in the state belong to the UVA telemedicine network.
UVA’s Office of Telemedicine will use the grant money to purchase video conferencing equipment, computers, monitors, electronic stethoscopes, a standard documents camera and a high-resolution camera for all three sites. It will also purchase a video colposcope, an innovative tele-health tool used in the diagnosis of cervical cancer. It will be linked to all SVCHS telemedicine facilities. Boucher said all equipment will be in place and in service by the end of November.
The grant will also enable UVA’s digital mammography van to provide screenings to women in the region.
“Our goal is to improve healthcare in far southwest Virginia by giving more people access to clinical services not available in their home communities. Once the new sites are linked in, we will provide medical consultations and distance-learning programs to staff and patients,” said Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, Medical Director, UVA Office of Telemedicine, which provided more than 300 live interactive patient consultations in 35 clinical specialties in the region last year.
She continued, “We are gratified by the partnerships that have made this expansion possible and applaud Congressman Boucher for helping turn this vision into reality.”
Boucher noted, “Southwest Virginia now has more than 50 broadband-connected telemedicine sites, more than any other Congressional district in the nation.”
In coming months, UVA telemedicine will add several more sites in far southwest Virginia to its network. Thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Johnston Memorial Hospital (JMH) Cancer Center in Abingdon and Mountain Laurel Cancer Support and Resource Center in Norton will become UVA telemedicine sites. By the end of 2008, the JMH and UVA Cancer Centers will begin conducting shared tumor boards via telemedicine links to evaluate patients and discuss a multidisciplinary approach to treating them.
Another future site is the Appalachia University College of Pharmacy in Grundy, which has received an allocation from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to create a telemedicine link with UVA.