Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Virginia Expanding HIT Efforts

Nearly $24 million in federal funding will be used by the Commonwealth of Virginia to advance health IT. The state will work with $11.6 million over a four year period of time to develop a health information exchange and the Governor’s HIT Advisory Committee leading the planning for the initiative will establish the Office of Health Information Technology. The state is scheduled to conclude the planning phase for the HIE in the fall and at that time; the implementation phase is scheduled to begin.

HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator have made $12.4 million available to support a statewide HIT Regional Extension Center to help physicians adopt electronic health records. The Virginia Health Quality Center in partnership with the Center for Innovative Technology, Community Care Network, and the Medical Society of Virginia, will lead the effort to provide low cost access and technical support to 2,300 primary care physicians in the state.

The University of Virginia through their Office of Telemedicine is actively helping in areas where disparities exist by linking remotely located patients with health professionals. Since January 13, 2010, almost 17,000 patient encounters have taken place and clinical consultations and medical education is provided through the University’s Telemedicine Network and other telecommunications networks.

Last year, the University of Virginia expanded telemedicine capabilities in Southwest Virginia and opened five new telemedicine sites. Funding for the sites came from USDA, HRSA, the Verizon Foundation, and the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

Funding was also made available to Healthy Appalachia Works and the Southwest Virginia Telemedicine Cancer Outreach Program. Both of these programs provide access to cancer screening, education, prevention, and clinical trials throughout the region. The University of Virginia Health System also provides a teleradiology link to the Buchanan General Hospital in Southwest Virginia to provide radiological reviews after hours and provides consultations on complex cases.

To put the needed infrastructure in place, NTIA within the Department of Commerce recently made funding available for two grants totaling more than $21.5 million to expand broadband in Virginia. The two grants will add 575 miles of new high speed internet for the residents in rural Southern Virginia.

The Southside and Southwest Virginia areas have been especially hard hit by the recession. One of the most immediate needs is to expand broadband internet infrastructure in the entire state but it is particularly important to provide broadband capacity to these particularly distressed areas.

To help the educational system, the Virginia Tech Foundation received a $5.5 million grant with an additional $1.4 million in applicant provided matching funds to add 110 miles of open access, fiber-optic network between Blacksburg and Bedford City. The resulting network will cross six counties in Virginia’s Appalachian region, and provide direct, high speed connections from Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg to the Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine in Roanoke to enable collaboration on cutting edge medical and scientific research.

The Virginia Telehealth Network is very actively working to support the initial design, development, testing, and evaluation of a model stroke network across the Central Shenandoah Region. The Virginia Acute Stroke Telehealth Network is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Health Office of Minority Health and Public Health Policy with funding by the National Office of Rural Health Policy specifically to address the prevention and treatment of stroke and related co-morbidities.

At the federal level, this grant program is known as the “Critical Access Hospital-Health Information Technology Grant” (CAH-HIT) program. At the state level, this project is considered Phase 1 of a larger statewide stroke initiative called the “Virginia Acute Stroke Telehealth Network or VAST.

As part of the VAST initiative, Bath Community Hospital is working with the University of Virginia, Rockingham Memorial, and the Augusta Medical Center to identify, understand, and analyze stroke systems of care from a regional viewpoint.

To further serve the area and to pull many of the ideas and thoughts together on how to close the healthcare gap in rural and underserved areas, the 2010 Rural Health Summit is being held March 16-18 2010 in Danville Virginia.

To zero in specifically on telehealth, the Virginia Telehealth Network and the Virginia Department of Health Office of Minority Health and Public Health Policy are jointly sponsoring a Telehealth Summit to be held on March 18th which will be Day 3 of the Health Summit. Presenters will represent both national health information technology programs and specific telehealth activities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Vital presentations and discussions will be held on operating telehealth nationwide, operating telehealth in Virginia, implementing the national broadband plan, managing Virginia’s academic and major regional health systems with telehealth, and present day telehealth activities in Critical Access Hospitals and at FQHCs. Topics to be discussed include sessions on reimbursement, coding, specific, legal, and regulatory issues, and the role of telehealth in treating chronic diseases.

Some of the presenters are Kathy Wibberly, PhD, Director, Division of Primary Care and Rural Health, VDH Office of Minority Health and Public Health Policy; Karen Rheuban, MD, Medical Director, Office of Telemedicine, UVA Office of Telemedicine; Neal Neuberger, Executive Director, Institute for e-Health Policy, and President Health Tech Strategies; Dena S. Puskin, Sc.D, Senior Advisor, Health Information Technology and Telehealth Policy at HRSA; Karen R. Jackson, MBA, Deputy Secretary of Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia; Jean-Pierre Auffret, PhD, Director, Center for Advanced Technology Strategy, and a Professor at George Mason University; and Mohit Kaushai, MD, Digital Healthcare Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy.

For more information and a full list of topics and presenters, go to