MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine Children’s is making it easier for children and families in the Eastern Panhandle to make appointments with specialists with the help of a telemedicine clinic that is now open in Martinsburg.
“Families should not have to travel out of town, or even out of state, to find specialty care for their children, which is why we are thrilled to bring this service to Martinsburg. Families in the Eastern Panhandle should have convenient access to high quality care when they need it,” J. Philip Saul, M.D., executive vice president of WVU Medicine Children’s, said. “We have launched the program with 10 specialties, and we can add to that list to meet the needs of the community.”
The clinic, which is located at Tuscarora Primary Care on Doctor Oates Drive, is currently providing telemedicine appointments with pediatric specialists in Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics, Pulmonology, and Urology. A specialist in Morgantown uses a secure internet connection and a web camera to see the patient, family, and nurse practitioner in Martinsburg and vice versa in real time. The specialist observes the exam, and he or she develops a plan for the child with the nurse practitioner and the family.
The first patient was seen on May 14. Abigail Crawford, A.P.R.N., F.N.P.-B.C., advance practice provider in the Department of Pediatric Telemedicine, said the visit went really well.
“The patient’s family was very appreciative of the convenience of being seen locally. We conducted the first visit much like a shared visit at the Physician Office Center between an advance practice provider and physician. I felt that being the provider in the room with the patient and the family here locally helped to establish the provider-patient relationship, so that once the physician was up on the iPad, the parent was very comfortable talking with the physician,” she said.
“Children are usually drawn to technology and this was no exception. Once the child realized he was on camera, he was very excited about seeing himself on the iPad. He took the opportunity to show the provider how well he could jump and show the provider his giant teddy bear.”
With most of the specialties involved, there is the potential to schedule a telemedicine visit on days when the provider is holding clinic hours in Morgantown. The goal is for the telemedicine visits to be interlaced into the providers’ current schedules just like any other clinic visit.
Crawford said that on average, it takes two-and-a-half-to-three hours to travel one way to Morgantown from the Eastern Panhandle, and many parents have transportation and childcare issues and are unable to take time off of work to go to Morgantown. Increasing access to specialty care, she said, means that where people live does not have to affect the quality of care they receive. In addition, having one clinic with multiple specialties involved will help coordinate care for special needs children who have to see various providers.
“As a provider, a local resident of the Eastern Panhandle, and a working parent, I think that this service will be extremely valuable,” Crawford said. “As I talk to other providers and parents in the area, there is a lot of enthusiasm about the increased access to care. With the great need in this area, this program has a lot of potential for growth.”
It is not just the patients who will benefit from the new telemedicine clinic. Crawford said that WVU’s health professions students also stand to benefit from the addition of specialty services in the Eastern Panhandle.
“Telemedicine is a part of the future of healthcare, and WVU is in the position to prepare students for the changes in technology while still providing high quality patient care,” she said. This is an opportunity to increase student exposure to rural health within the context of the future of medicine while still providing a needed service to the community.”
WVU Medicine Children’s – currently located on the sixth floor of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, WVU Medicine’s flagship hospital – provides maternal, infant, and pediatric care for West Virginia and the surrounding region, giving care to high-risk mothers, premature infants, and children with life-threatening conditions through adolescence to adulthood. In 2020, WVU Medicine Children’s will move into a new tower and ambulatory care center to be attached to Ruby Memorial. For more information, including ways to support the $60-million capital campaign for Children’s new home, visit wvumedicine.org/childrens.