CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A grant from the Federal Communications Commission will enable Charleston Area Medical Center to build out it’s telemedicine program that it says will help many in southern West Virginia.
The agency this week doled out $200 million in funding nationwide for similar programs. Here in West Virginia, CAMC was awarded $781,964. The money will be earmarked for remote patient monitoring, network upgrades, and a telehealth platform which expands the capabilities of the current system.
“We already have a robust telemedicine platform, but there are a few things we can’t do with it. So we’re going to be able to expand that,” Becky Harless CAMC Associate Administrator of the Ambulatory Division said.
One of the new components will be the ability to place orders for prescriptions or lab work via the telemedicine.
“It’s one of those things you didn’t know you needed it until Covid hit and suddenly we wish we had this functionality,” she said.
The idea of telemedicine is to allow patients to be seen by a doctor or a specialists without having to make the long trip to Charleston unless it is necessary. Harless said, a new function of the system to be developed with the grant will be patient monitoring.
“It will allow them to see the first line of care and find out if it’s time to go to the E.R. or to go to Urgent Care or to just stay home and monitor symptoms,” she said.
A third program will be to outfit the Intensive Care Units with telemedicine to provide the same level of care to the patient, but keep medical personnel outside the room as much as possible. The process would protect against the spread of infections disease and reduce the risk to providers while also providing quality, specialty care for patients. Harless used the example of Cabell-Huntington Hospital where a member of the staff in the orthopedic surgery center tested positive for Covid 19. The result was a shutdown of the entire unit.
Although there’s no timeline for getting the programs up and running, Harless expected it would be quick.
“The emphasis in the grant application was on fast deployment. There were a lot of questions about how quickly we could get this going. We’re ready as soon as we get the equipment,” she said.
U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin announced the grant earlier this week.
“Creating a strong foothold for telehealth services is crucial to the future of healthcare in West Virginia, especially in the Charleston area,” Capito said. “Last July, I brought FCC commissioner Brendan Carr to Charleston to highlight the importance of telehealth and reliable broadband to our state. As we toured CAMC, I emphasized how crucial this hospital is to our region and how we must be able to improve our outreach to more rural communities in West Virginia.”
Manchin added, “This is great news for Charleston area residents and will provide West Virginians and our healthcare providers with the systems they need to receive and give the care they deserve. I will keep advocating for funding that helps our providers, first responders, and front line workers respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and care for their fellow West Virginians as this crisis continues.”