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Telemedicine, University of Virginia Health System - Case Study

The Univeristy of Virginia Office of Telemedicine was established in 1995 to provide remte consultative and diestance learning opportunities for patients and health professionals in the Commonwealth and beyond.  The telemedicine program at the University was initially developed without external grant funding, but rather, as an investment to facilitate achievement of our clinical, educational, research and public service missions.  To date the Office has supported more than 12,000 clinical encounters in more than 30 subspecialties of healthcare and tens of thousands of teleradiology services along with thoughsands of hours of broadcast education.  The network of more than 60 sites includes rural and urban community hospitals, critical access hospitals, a Veterans Hospital, rural clinics, federally qualified health centers, schools, prisons, and other academic health centers in Virginia.  The Office also supports international consults and programming.

The Office of Telemedicine has developed protocols to facilitate the efficient coordination, implementation, and evaluation of all consultative activities.  Currently, the Office facilitates approximately 120 telemedicine related enounters per month separate from, but related to the teleradiology program.  The Office also has a home health telehealth program which allows for service-specific “clinics” to be offered via videoconferencing technologies to gain economies of scale.  Services may be accessed on a 24-hour emergency basis and consultations can be scheduled by accessing the Telemedicine Office via telephone, through the hospital page operator, through the emergence room MEDCOM communications network or e-mail.

Innovative applications of telemedicine based on clinical need and geographic isolation have included the use of clinical workstations screening for diabetic retinopathy, remote access to clinical trials, collaborative tumor boards, emergency preparedness training, training for continuing health professional education, for resident training and student training.  The Office provides clinical care in more than 32 diffferent specialties and subspecialties both in “live” formats and in “store and forward” mode.

The Office also regularly participates in health education and research programs.  Participation in such opportunities are critical for rural Virginia health professionals who, (effective January 2000) are required by the State Board of Medicine to participate in 60 hours of continuing medical education for renewal of their medical licenses.  In the absence of community based medical education programs, attainment of this volume of continuing education activities is otherwise impossible for health professionals residing in targeted communities.

The Office is currently ramping up for increased activities due to the recent award of FCC funding for the Virginia Advanced Stroke Telehealth Project (VAST) project led by the UVA Health System on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia and in partnership with the Virginia Telehealth Network.