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WVU Medicine rep: Telemedicine services prove beneficial to both patients, pediatric specialists in West Virginia

BUCKHANNON – WVU Medicine has expanded pediatric telemedicine services to Buckhannon.

Dr. Charles Mullett, chair of the WVU Department of Pediatrics, attended the Sept. 21 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting to discuss the new program and why it was necessary.

“If you think about us as a state, we are mostly a rural with some larger towns, but we are spread out, so how can we meet the needs of all the kids of this state?” Mullett said. “Traditionally, we would ask people to come Morgantown, and in February, come to our new Children’s Hospital, but that doesn’t always work.”

Mullett said it can be difficult for specialists to operate in West Virginia because of the spread-out population, particularly for pediatric specialists.

“Kids are a minority of the population, and they’re healthier, they need less care, and therefore, each sub-specialist needs a larger population base to feed enough cases to keep them busy,” Mullett said. “New York City has a dense population, but in the state of West Virginia, everybody is spread out; there are centers like Morgantown and Charleston and Huntington, but then after that it is pretty homogenous, so how do we meet the needs of this population spread out all over the state?”

One answer to that question is telemedicine clinics, which help keep pediatric patients in West Virginia.

“We collaborate with Charleston and Huntington. We want to meet the needs of the kids of our state and keep them in state because any of us specialists – cardiac, neurosurgical or orthopedic – we almost need every kid in the state to come seek their care here in Morgantown, so that we can keep the surgeons busy,” Mullett said.

Telemedicine also enables doctors to see more patients and travel less.

“Driving all over the state doesn’t necessarily scale well, and it’s a lot of windshield time for the doctors, being away from their family and there’s an efficiency issue,” Mullett said. “When you’re on the road, you don’t get to see as many patients per day.”

The clinics include a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant to meet the patient and perform any necessary physical exams before the patient speaks to the doctor on the camera. After the patient speaks to the specialist, the in-person team finishes the visit, writes any prescriptions, and orders X-rays or lab tests.

“One of the benefits is that all these labs and X-rays and MRIs are being done on your campus, so that’s utilizing all the St Joseph’s professionals – X-ray techs, lab techs, etc. – and keeping them working for the needs of the community, for the kids not able to come to Morgantown,” Mullett said. “We’re doing it right there in Buckhannon and because we’re all in the same electronic medical record system, it works perfectly; it’s great.”

According to a press release from WVU Medicine, specialties include endocrinology, gastroenterology, genetics, neurology and pulmonology. Patients must be referred by their primary care providers and take place at 21 Auction Lane Building E.

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