CAMC goes to Washington, Healthcare provider showcases telemedicine technology serving rural W.Va.

CHARLESTON — The critical need for health care in rural parts of West Virginia may become a key driver in bringing better broadband and internet connectivity to the state. That’s what Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Tuesday’s Future of Telehealth in the 21st Century expo was all about.

“We had people from Alaska and New York, California, Arkansas and all over the country,” Capito said. “We had CAMC doing electronic eye exams that help screening for diabetes. There was some technologies that would help so that people wouldn’t have to leave there skilled nursing facilities.”

CAMC was one of 15 innovators from across the country who shared health technologies at the expo hosted by the Senate Broadband Caucus. CAMC Director of Care Management Barbara McKee attended with several administrators and doctors to showcase the hospital’s four-year-old Diabetic Retinal Camera, which is used to diagnose diabetes.

“It’s an incredible honor,” McKee said. “We are elated to be from our own state, and the honor of being invited is really impressive.

Currently, CAMC has deployed eight digital retinal cameras at eight sites spread out in a 28-county area. The specialized digital cameras, equipment and software were purchased after CAMC won a matching grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Services Program.

“But CAMC used the matching funds; we developed the programs and put in the personnel,” McKee added.

The cameras and corresponding telemedicine technology capture images of a patient’s retina, which are then sent over the internet to a computer that’s in the retina specialist’s office. The doctor can see both the image and the patient in real time.

“When he gets it, they see the patient live, talk to them in real time on how they can manage their diabetes,” McKee said. “It’s such a high-quality camera that they can screen the eye with a non-dilated eye exam.”

She said the technology falls in line with CAMC’s overall mission, beginning when a previously or newly diagnosed patient with diabetes comes in to be checked out.

“So we really have a hybrid unit,” she said. “We have one where the patient can be seen live and interactively or store it forward where you would read it like you would read an X-ray.”

Capito, who is one of the founding members of the Senate Broadband Caucus, got a firsthand look at CAMC’s Diabetic Retinal Cameras last year.

“We went down to watch how it worked,” Capito said. “I watched a remote interaction, and then I went out to Clay County to the community health center and had them do an eye exam on me from the remote and had the doctor on the other end in Charleston telling me if there was anything I needed to look at.”

The service, according to McKee has grown each year it’s been available.

“Between 2016 and 2017, we’ve already had a 47 percent increase in the volume of seeing patients,” McKee added.

Capito touted a recent recent report to Congress by the Department of Health and Human Services showing the telehealth market generated $9.6 billion in revenue in 2013, a 60 percent increase over the previous year.

“Technologies like CAMC’s diabetic screenings came about because of the limited ophthalmology services in West Virginia and the high incidence of diabetes,” Capito said in a press release. “Because of this technology, more patients are being diagnosed and beginning treatment than was previously possible. We can build on this progress, but only if we also expand broadband access.”

McKee said CAMC is also working on another telemedicine technology — telestroke.

“We are in the implementation phase,” McKee said. “But we have 10 rural critical access hospitals all around our 28-county area.”

Telestroke, also called telestroke services, is an approach to treating vascular strokes that allows a neurologist to provide remote treatment for a stroke victim. A telestroke service, which is a subcategory of telemedicine, is often used for medical consultations in rural areas.

“By and large, probably two-thirds of the counties in the West Virginia do not have a neurologist, so consequently anybody who has a stroke in rural West Virginia may not be able to get checked by a neurologist,” she said.

By:  John Dahlia
Source: The State Journal