Health Care: WVU pilot program may help rural residents

Many Americans living in urban or fast-growing suburban areas don’t even think about access to health care. It is just around the corner, figuratively and sometimes literally speaking. West Virginia is different.

In most of our rural state, help from a doctor or nurse can mean driving for an hour or more, often in an emergency situation. That is certainly true for some residents here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Our region is wild and wonderful … and sometimes way out there. West Virginia University researchers are working on a way to help through technology.

WVU has announced a “telehealth” pilot program through which people who have left long-term care facilities will be outfitted with devices to monitor certain physical indicators. Nurses will be notified if there is reason for concern. That can avoid problems deteriorating into emergencies.

“We looked at Medicaid claims data to see what some of the top reasons were for these individuals going back to an emergency department or a hospital,” said West Virginia University researcher Steve Davis. “We designed the program based on what we were seeing.”

How well the project works will be evaluated. Then, presumably, it can be refined — maybe even expanded.

Good for WVU officials and researchers for continuing to tailor health care initiatives to West Virginians’ needs.