News Column

WVU Healthcare Telemedicine Reduces Travel Expenses for Patients

May 12, 2014



MORGANTOWN, W.Va., May 12 -- The West Virginia University Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center issued the following news release:

WVU Healthcare telemedicine is making it easier for families to receive quality care in their hometowns without travel expenses to Morgantown and missed time from work or school. Amy Chewning, of Elkins, W.Va., and her son Albert are among those to benefit from telemedicine - a medical appointment conducted remotely through a computer, web camera, and secure server between a WVU physician and a partnering medical clinic.

Since the age of two, Albert Chewning has received care from WVU pediatric cardiologist John Phillips, M.D., for a heart condition that causes a rapid rhythm called SVT or supraventricular tachycardia. Chewning, now 10 years old, underwent a procedure last year called cardiac ablation to correct his heart rhythm problem. Two of Chewning's post-operation appointments with Dr. Phillips took place through telemedicine.

"I thought it was a great way for us to receive the same kind of care we receive in person because it saved us on time and gas money. Normally, I have to take Albert out of school for a whole day to get to an appointment in Morgantown, and I have to miss a day of work. Now, he can return to school after his appointment here, and I can get back to work," said Amy Chewning, a nurse at Arbor Community Health in Elkins.

Chewning also assists patients at Arbor Community Health during WVU Healthcare cardiology, neurology, and neurosurgery telemedicine appointments. "A lot of people in our area can't afford to travel to Morgantown to see a doctor, and telemedicine is a wonderful way for them to receive the care they need."

WVU physicians have been consulting by video with patients and their primary care doctors across the state since the 1990s. The original Mountaineer Doctor Television (MDTV) network was established by WVU School of Medicine faculty members James E. Brick, M.D., (now chair of the WVU Department of Medicine) and John F. Brick, M.D., (now chair of the WVU Department of Neurology). The twin brothers, both of whom are graduates of the School, won several federal grants to construct telemedicine links among WVU's health campuses in Morgantown, Charleston, and in rural hospitals and community health centers across the state.

"Telemedicine is a key tool in meeting our mission of reducing health disparities that affect West Virginians," Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., WVU chancellor for health sciences and president and CEO of the West Virginia United Health System, said. "By making WVU Healthcare specialists available to patients at other locations across the state more than 5,000 times last year, the MDTV program has helped rural physicians and hospitals deliver the highest possible quality of care to their communities."

The total number of provided telemedicine appointments in 2013 was 5,377, an increase of 1,633 consultations over the previous year. Other WVU Healthcare telemedicine specialties include pediatrics, student health psychiatry, psychiatry, and stroke.

Sixteen counties are currently being served: Barbour, Clay, Grant, Greenbrier, Jackson, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Pocahontas, Randolph, Roane, Tucker, Upshur, and Wood.

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Source: Targeted News Service