July 14, 2016

Sens. Warner & Kaine Announce More Than $700,000 in Funding for Telehealth Services in Virginia

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide funding for three Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) projects that will help connect rural communities in Southwest Virginia with medical and educational experts in other parts of the state and increase access to mental health care and specialty services.

Carilion Medical Center in Roanoke will receive $434,182 to provide psychiatric, mental health and other physician services, including post-operative follow-up visits and medical consultation for stroke care, maternal pregnancy care, pediatric care and geriatric care, in Franklin, Henry, Botetourt, Floyd, Grayson, Carroll, Rockbridge, Tazewell, Pulaski, Wythe, Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke counties.   

The University of Virginia Center for Telehealth will receive $153,082 to invest in an advanced telepresence system, to provide community health centers in Albemarle, Dickenson, Buchanan, Washington, Wise, Smyth, Tazewell, Bath and Henry counties with access to specialty care, including oncology, endocrinology, psychiatry, emergency stroke care and chronic diseases. As part of the project, two mobile Health Wagons will canvass six of these counties to provide on-site primary care and telemedicine videoconferencing with specialty doctors and clinicians.

The Mountain States Health Alliance will receive $133,659 to establish a telemedicine network connecting doctors at Johnson City Medical Center to six hospitals in rural Tennessee and Virginia, including Dickenson Community Hospital, Russell County Medical Center, Smyth County Community Hospital, and Norton Community Hospital in Southwest Virginia.

“Telehealth services help Virginians in rural areas access specialty and other care that might not otherwise be available,” said Sen. Warner. “As Governor of Virginia, I saw firsthand how it improved outcomes when we expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide. Virginia is already a national leader in using technology to bring health services to rural communities, and this funding will allow us to build on that progress and expand access to quality health care in Southwest Virginia.”

“Today’s announcement will help meet the healthcare needs of rural communities in Virginia, ensuring they receive vital care through the use of advanced medical technologies,” Sen. Kaine said. “I’m also pleased that this funding will also help boost efforts at addressing the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic, an issue that has painfully impacted communities in rural Virginia.”

Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions. According to studies, telehealth and remote patient monitoring have both been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing hospitalizations, and Virginia is a national leader in the field. The University of Virginia Center for Telehealth was launched in 1994 and has since grown into a national model for the health industry. Since then, UVA and its network of 152 telemedicine partners have enabled more than 51,000 patient encounters across more than 60 specialties, saving Virginians roughly 16 million miles of travel.

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers.