PENNINGTON GAP — Patients at Lee Regional Medical Center will soon have access to board-certified specialists at Tennessee’s top cardiology program — without leaving Lee County.
Wellmont Health System officials and members of the Virginia General Assembly announced a $150,000 Virginia Tobacco Commission grant Friday to fund the new Wellmont Cardio-Stroke TeleHealth Network.
Coupled with a $50,000 investment by Wellmont, the grant will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment for LRMC.
The TeleHealth Network will allow physicians and patients at the hospital to electronically consult in real time with board-certified cardiac specialists at Cardiovascular Associates and Kingsport’s Holston Valley Medical Center.
HVMC was recently ranked Tennessee’s No. 1 hospital for cardiology services by the independent health care ratings organization HealthGrades.
“I cannot overstate how much this new technology will mean for the people of Lee County and Southwest Virginia,” LRMC President Ron Prewitt said. “Patients who need cardiac stress testing or nuclear medicine stress testing will now be able to have those critical tests at their hometown hospital instead of traveling an hour or more for care.”
Prewitt said the network would also “lead to the creation of additional jobs in our community.”
The network will use the Lenowisco Broadband Initiative, which is expected to be operational by January, and will allow physicians at LRMC to electronically transmit patient test results to dedicated workstations at HVMC for review and interpretation by board-certified cardiologists.
The equipment will also enable physicians and patients at LRMC to consult with doctors at HVMC and Cardiovascular Associates via video technology.
In addition to consulting with telemedicine, Dr. Herb Ladley, a board-certified cardiologist who practices at HVMC, will travel to LRMC twice a week to conduct on-site clinics, see patients and lead educational sessions.
Officials plan to expand the network to include Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton and Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap.
Eventually, the three hospitals will be linked via telemedicine to Cardiovascular Associates, HVMC and Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Wellmont has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Virginia to access the UVA telemedicine system as needed.
Prewitt said the Wellmont Cardio-Stroke TeleHealth Network will save lives throughout Southwest Virginia, and he expressed his gratitude to area legislators — Delegate Terry Kilgore and state Sens. Phillip Puckett and William Wampler — who he said played a pivotal role in securing the Tobacco Commission funding.
The Wellmont Foundation will administer the grant.