The Virginia Coalition to Advance Appalachian Health Care includes the UVA Telehealth Center and several health care organizations and will use $5.1 million in federal grants to launch or expand innovative programs to improve health care in Southwest Virginia.
The University of Virginia Health System is partnering with the Virginia Coalition of Healthcare Organizations to provide a broad range of digital health and telehealth services to residents of rural southwestern Virginia hit hard by the pandemic.
Virginia consortium to advance health care in Appalachia will include UVA Telehealth Center, one of 12 federally recognized telehealth resource centers; Appalachian Institute for Healthy Appalachian Institute at University of Virginia’s Wise School; Southwest Virginia Health Authority ; Tri-Area Health, Ballad Health; and The Health Wagon, an innovative mobile health program serving Southwest Virginia. The consortium was supported by a $5.1 million grant from the USDA Emergency Rural Health Grant Program.
“Community-academic partnerships like this one are urgently needed to assess and address health inequities in Virginia’s Appalachian communities,” said David Dries, MPH, director of the Appalachian Institute for Health Cole (David Driscoll) said in a press release. “Our coalition is committed to understanding and, most importantly, addressing the determinants of population health disparities in Appalachia, including adequate access to comprehensive public health and medical care.”
The effort will be led by Karen Rheuban, MD, director of the University of Virginia Telehealth Center and a national telehealth expert, and will include several innovative initiatives aimed at addressing health inequities and improving access to care in underserved communities. It will serve the city of Norton and 10 rural Virginia counties whose residents face a variety of chronic care issues, including a 30 percent higher mortality rate than the rest of the state, a 35 percent higher mortality rate from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease %, 21% higher mortality from heart disease, and 14% higher mortality from diabetes.
“This consortium … is exactly the type of strategic initiative that the Southwest Virginia Health Authority is seeking,” Southwest Virginia Health Authority President Terry Kilgore said in a news release. “Improving health care access in Southwest Virginia through a broad-based coalition will improve health care outcomes and improve the quality of life for people in Southwest Virginia. This project will create models to support rural health care, expand evidence-based models in telehealth, and Regional partnerships to improve access to health care, health outcomes and resource sharing, equipment deployment, training and education, and update our regional health blueprint.”
Projects that will be expanded or rolled out include a remote patient monitoring program piloted last year by the UVA Telehealth Center; virtual urgent care, mental health care (through the Virginia TeleMental Health Program) and chronic disease management services; an inpatient telehealth platform designed to enable hospitals and clinics to isolation care; telehealth delivery of post-COVID-19 care; and the ECHO Project telehealth platform developed by UVA Health to train providers in rural and remote areas on COVID and post-COVID care.
Eric Wicklund is Innovation and Technology Editor at HealthLeaders.