UVA expands telehealth program, focus on chronic disease care

The program is funded by a $750,000 grant from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health.
By Laura Lovett
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Yesterday the University of Virginia announced a new effort to expand its telehealth program, with a special focus on chronic disease care. 

The initiative, funded by a $750,000 grand from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health, is set to expand or pilot six new telemedicine initiatives. 

Two will focus on diabetes, including a remote blood sugar monitoring program for people with Type 2 diabetes and a second program that will screen for diabetic retinopathy. 

Another program will focus on home rehabilitation for patients with heart failure, giving patients a tablet to enter their vitals as well as education programs. UVA also plans on working on a program to create apps to promote a healthy lifestyle, using gamification and health goals.

Lastly, two programs will be focused on the provider; one will be used for e-consults and another to help train healthcare providers. 

Why it matters 

Around 133 million Americans are affected by chronic disease, accounting for more than 75 percent of all healthcare costs, according to the National Health Council. With chronic conditions impacting such a significant percent of the population, many are looking for alternatives to the traditional care model.

“Virtual care delivery models have proven to improve access, care coordination, clinical outcomes and patient engagement,”  Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, director of the UVA Center for Telehealth, said in a statement. “The digital transformation of healthcare has been affirmed by US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as Medicare now covers a broad range of virtual care models. Our collaboration with the CDC in advancing these connected care models to enhance disease prevention will impact patients across the nation.”

What's the trend 

Chronic care management has been a focus of the telemedicine industry for some time. 

In fact even the federal government has focused on this issue. In April of 2017, the senate reintroduced a bill called Creating High Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017, which was focused on using Medicare payment to expand telemedicine services for chronic disease management and at-home care coordination. 

More recently, Doctor on Demand hinted this week that it is going to be expanding its chronic conditions efforts to include more customized programs, including managing patients with multiple chronic conditions and integrating behavioral health. 

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