Telehealth

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A health care system serving six southern West Virginia counties received more than $900,000 to enhance its telehealth services.

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Medical experts have spent years promoting telehealth as an option for rural areas with little access to in-person care.

Now, after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a “stay home” order that took effect on Tuesday, March 24, some medical providers are offering telehealth as a way to keep more people healthy at home during the coronavirus. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Delegates have approved a bill that its sponsors hope will expand access to mental and behavioral health medications.

House Bill 2509 allows physicians to prescribe certain controlled substances through telemedicine technologies – like over a video call. Doctors are currently prohibited from prescribing certain types of medications over telemedicine systems, including narcotics like oxycodone and morphine—drugs that have been abused in recent years in the state.

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Telemedicine has been touted as a way to fill in some gaps in health care for rural residents.  But telemedicine relies on broadband service, which parts of Appalachia still don’t have.

“Without broadband, you don’t have telemedicine,” said nurse practitioner Lindsey Kennedy. Kennedy manages the telemedicine program at Bland County Medical Center in southwestern Virginia.