Carilion Clinic receives nearly $1M to expand telemedicine to rural communities

‘This will become a key part of how we deliver care to our patients in the future’

ROANOKE, Va. – Imagine seeing your doctor and even performing some of your own medical evaluations from the comfort of your living room. Carilion Clinic received a $947,983 grant to make that a reality.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox," said Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Stephen Morga.

He said it has the potential to transform patient care, especially for those who live in rural areas such as Galax, Tazwell, Wythe and Franklin County.

“It is much more convenient for patients and it’s good quality," said Morgan.

The grant allows Carilion to create Virtual Care Centers so patients who live far away from specialty doctors can go to a medical office closer to home.

It also expands neurological telemedicine and provides 80 portable TytoCare telehealth devices. Those devices are similar to a softball-sized tablet that is equipped with video and allows patients to get checked out from a Virtual Care Center or their own home, even with limited or no broadband.

Galax Vice Mayor C.M. Mitchell, who is a retired pharmacist that has worked in healthcare for years, said this is a huge opportunity.

“It’s going to be a very beneficial service for our citizens and citizens all throughout the entire region,” said Mitchell.

Dr. John Epling, a professor of family and community medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, said the pandemic has pushed the medical field into the world of telemedicine for the better and has been essential.

He said doctors will have to learn to balance in-person and virtual visits. He also warns that the healthcare community has to be careful about widening the digital divide. Some families can’t afford computers, smartphones or Internet service, which is why Epling said he’s excited to bring the technology to families.

“Folks that have to take a bus or don’t have their own transportation really find it hard to get in routinely for medical care. So in one sense, telemedicine can help improve that access," said Epling.

For chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension or just a regular primary care checkup, Morgan said telemedicine is a good option and it’s here to stay.

“I think this will become a key part of how we deliver care to our patients in the future,” said Morgan.

Carilion plans to educate patients about the technology so they could use it from home. Carilion plans to implement the changes and technology starting at the beginning of 2021.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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