Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance (BRTA) is pleased to announce a grant award of nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the Health Resources and Services Administration Office for the Advancement of Telehealth. This grant, with collaboration from partners, will establish a number of new telehealth sites to support expanded mental, behavioral, and geriatric patient care throughout the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Eastern Shore, from medical specialists located in Hampton Roads and Richmond.
Telehealth is the use of medical information exchanged between distant locations via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status. It frequently includes videoconferencing, transmission of still images, and remote monitoring of vital signs. Telehealth programs link tertiary care hospitals and clinics with outlying clinics and community health centers in rural or suburban areas. The telehealth programs tend to use dedicated high-speed lines or the Internet for telecommunication links between sites.
“Adding telehealth capabilities to new rural healthcare sites at long-term care facilities, mental health clinics, and hospitals will help the timely diagnosis and management of depression, dementia and chronic diseases,” said Edie Bowles, Executive Director of the Alliance and project director. “This is a project that can immediately help Virginia’s underserved rural communities. It will be a much needed shot in the arm for our region.”
With a geographic footprint that stretches from the Middle Peninsula to the Eastern Shore, west to metropolitan Richmond, and south to Hampton Roads, the vast regional project includes 21 sites. These sites include hospitals, counseling centers, skilled nursing and PACE facilities, behavioral health centers, and a mobile emergency service.
Regarding the award, Dr. Kyle Allen, Director of Geriatric Medicine at Riverside Health System, a project partner, said, “The use of telehealth technology enables improved access to behavioral health services and education. This has great benefit to our patients — it improves the safety and quality of life for these patients and their caregivers. Specialized geriatric behavioral health physicians and providers are a scarce resource. By improving both access and capacity through telehealth, we are able to reach more patients and families in need. This is consistent with Riverside’s mission “to care for others as you would care for those you love.”
In addition to Riverside, other partners are the Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Service Board, the Department of Geriatric Medicine and Telemedicine Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Center for Excellence in Aging and Geriatric Health in Williamsburg, and the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Richmond Chapter.
The grant helps the Alliance develop sustainability by supporting expansion of network infrastructure; links to distant clinicians; professional development for doctors, nurses, counselors, and caregivers working in rural settings; evaluation of clinical outcomes; more timely reimbursements and payments from insurers based on improved system capabilities; analysis of the economics of telehealth use.
Liz Martin, BRTA Board Chair noted, “Savings created by reduced healthcare costs, via fewer re-hospitalizations, unnecessary transfers, maintenance of the most independent setting for older adults, earlier intervention for complications, and more timely care management by providers, will contribute to fiscally sustaining telehealth services.”
This HRSA telehealth network grant is part of an ongoing Federal effort to increase health care access for rural populations. BRTA’s award includes recommended future support totaling $998,654 over a four-year period, contingent on the availability of federal funds and satisfactory performance. The project is being funded in whole with federal funds.
Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance is a non-profit organization working to connect healthcare providers, patients, educators, and consumers and their families to a comprehensive continuum of care using telehealth technology. It serves the counties of Accomack, Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northhampton, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland.