UVA Health System Expanding Telehealth to Better Treat Diabetes, Heart Disease

Healthcare professional typing on a laptop and holding a stethoscope in one hand

UVA Health System Expanding Telehealth to Better Treat Diabetes, Heart Disease

The University of Virginia Health System is expanding its telehealth capacity to help patients across Virginia better prevent or manage chronic conditions that include diabetes, prediabetes and heart disease. 

Through the UVA Center for Telehealth, UVA will expand or pilot several initiatives to battle chronic diseases, including remote monitoring for patients with diabetes, screenings for patients with diabetic eye disease, cardiac rehabilitation programs for heart failure patients and streamlined access to specialists. These programs will be supported by an initial grant of more than $750,000 from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health.

“Virtual care delivery models have proven to improve access, care coordination, clinical outcomes and patient engagement,” said Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, director of the UVA Center for Telehealth. “The digital transformation of health care has been affirmed by U.S. 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.”

Virtual initiatives include:

  • Remote blood sugar monitoring for type 2 diabetes patients: Building on work underway at the UVA Advanced Diabetes Management Clinic, nurses will remotely monitor the blood-sugar levels of patients and be able to send alerts if a patient’s blood sugar reaches a concerning level.
  • Screenings for diabetic retinopathy: Eye disease caused by diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. Using a low-cost screening device, a pilot program will test the effectiveness of remote screenings for diabetic retinopathy via telehealth.
  • Home rehabilitation for heart failure patients: Patients will receive a tablet that will enable them to enter their vital signs as well as participate in twice-weekly education and physical activity sessions to aid in their recovery.
  • Apps to encourage healthy lifestyles: UVA researchers will assess existing health and fitness apps to determine which are most helpful, as well as how to incorporate elements of game playing (“gamification”) to help people reach their health and fitness goals.
  •  Based on a program tested at UVA, eConsults – electronic consulting – would enable a primary care provider to seek advice from a specialist by sending a message through an electronic health record system that would allow the specialist to review the patient’s medical record before making a recommendation.
  • Training for health care providers: Develop training courses for health care providers that help them identify and treat these chronic diseases. 

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