Transcending barriers through telemedicine

Published: February 22, 2018 By: Jesef Williams
Patients with HIV will soon be able to meet with their UF Health providers via computers, tablets and smartphones. View Larger Image

CDC grant will allow patients with HIV and providers to meet via computers, tablets and smartphones

UF Health is preparing to expand care for patients with HIV in the Jacksonville area through the use of telemedicine, thanks to a $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The three-year grant will allow patients who are currently seen in person within the UF Health system to use computers, tablets and even smartphones for face-to-face consultations with physicians and other caregivers. Personnel with the UF Health Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Service, or UF Health CARES, and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville’s department of community health and family medicine are managing the project.

“Telemedicine is growing throughout health care, and our belief is it can really provide help to patients living with HIV who may have even more barriers to overcome to receive treatment,” said Reetu Grewal, MD, an assistant professor of community health and family medicine who is leading the research project. “Jacksonville is one of the largest cities in land mass, so at times it can be challenging for some of our patients who use public transportation to get to one of our clinics. We’re hopeful this can help.”

The grant was awarded in September. Since that time, faculty and staff have been creating promotional materials geared toward patients, developing protocols, training staff on how to enroll patients and incorporating essential documents into the Epic electronic medical records system.

“Telemedicine visits will start in September 2018 and conclude in September 2020,” Grewal said. “Our target right now is to have completed at least 300 patient visits in that two-year project period.”

To gauge the effectiveness of the project, patients will be asked to complete satisfaction surveys in which they can compare the telemedicine experience with conventional in-person visits. Project managers will also assess the difference in patient-associated costs, such as gas money, public transportation fares and work time loss due to traveling to in-person visits.

During the two-year project period, participating patients will still have the option of visiting one of UF Health’s primary care practices in Northeast Florida. 

The telemedicine model has been proven to work in rural settings where access to specialists is limited. This particular project, the only one of its kind nationally to receive CDC funding, aims to achieve the same results in an urban setting. Nipa Shah, MD, a professor and chair of community health and family medicine, is thrilled about the potential. 

“This is a great addition to the UF Health Virtual Visit telemedicine program we offer,” Shah said. “It gives all patients in our system the opportunity to talk with physicians anywhere they can use a portable device, like their smartphone.”

Patients with HIV will soon be able to meet with their UF Health providers via computers, tablets and smartphones.

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