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February 2, 2011

UVA Office of Telemedicine Leading Statewide Efforts to Give Rural Communities e-Access to Advanced Medical Services

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The FCC has announced that UVa’s Office of Telemedicine will receive $2.7 million in funding under a three-year national initiative. Called the Rural Health Care pilot program, the initiative will give outlying health care facilities broadband access to experts and equipment at leading medical institutions.

UVa Telemedicine will serve as the state’s lead organization for the program and work collaboratively with the Virginia Telehealth Network (VTN), state agencies and various academic and community partners. Additional funds for the project will come from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification Commission.

The Rural Health Care pilot program will fund construction of high-speed internet networks that link medical providers in remote areas to facilities with more sophisticated resources. When these networks are in place, doctors will be able to transmit patient records, video files and other images for diagnosis and ongoing care by medical experts across the state and the nation.

The FCC funding is the latest in a series of grants that place the UVa Office of Telemedicine at the hub of the state’s rural e-health initiatives.

In September 2007, UVa and VTN were awarded a contract from the Virginia Department of Health with funding from the Medicare Flex Health IT grant program to develop elements of the state’s new telestroke network, VAST (Virginia Acute Stroke Telehealth network). Focused on improving rural stroke care, the VAST initiative will incorporate telemedicine and teleradiology services in providing innovative, timely access to specialists and life-saving thrombolytic therapies to reduce the morbidity and mortality of acute stroke.

Also in September, UVa Telemedicine received a Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant for $182,968 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional matching funds from the Verizon Foundation and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification Commission. Working with partners in Southwest Virginia, UVa will use this funding to facilitate enhanced access to cancer screening, cancer care, clinical trials and  collaborative tumor boards consisting of a variety of medical experts.

Since its founding in 1993, the Office of Telemedicine at UVa has facilitated more than 11,000 clinical encounters in more than 32 different specialties and subspecialties. Working in partnership with more than 50 healthcare organizations in Virginia and elsewhere, UVa Telemedicine has provided thousands of hours of distance learning for patients and health professionals.

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