Jul. 28—Going to the doctor for specialized care just got a little easier for residents of the Upper Kanawha Valley area.
On Tuesday, July 25, CAMC Telemedicine — Montgomery was unveiled at Montgomery General Hospital. The new telemedicine center will be housed on the hospital's second floor in Suite 204-B at 401 6th Ave.
According to Breanna Chandler, telehealth operations director for Charleston Area Medical Center, the addition of the telemedicine center will result in cooperation, not competition, between the hospitals.
"The point of all of this is to be able to partner and keep the care local," Chandler said at the conclusion of a ribbon-cutting ceremony along the banks of the Kanawha River. "We're not trying to take anything away from Montgomery. That's one of the beautiful things that CAMC and Vandalia (Health, the CAMC parent company) is trying to do with all these partnerships, is to make sure that we keep the care within the community."
Patients can come to the CAMC Telemedicine Center in Montgomery for virtual visits with their medical specialists without the inconvenience or expense of travel, hospital officials stressed. A telemedicine visit at the center is the same as an in-person visit with a provider. An onsite nurse (nurse navigator Jackie Pettry) will be at the hub to oversee visits, meeting with each patient to record their vital statistics such as weight and blood pressure, talk to the patient about their health history, and facilitate a secure video visit with their provider. Patients will have the same dedicated time to talk with the provider one-on-one, similar to an office visit.
A wide variety of medical services will be available, said Chandler.
"We can do any kind of the specialty services," she said. "We have telemedicine services for anything from pulmonary, cardiology, urology, primary care, infectious disease, neurology. We are up and running, and we are open to referrals."
According to Chandler, patients already seeing a physician at CAMC in Charleston who want to start using the Montgomery hub to save some driving can take advantage of that option. New patients can request visits at the Montgomery site, as well.
Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
"It's very important to keep all this (health coverage) local," said Chandler. "It's hard when patients have issues with broadband, and they have issues with travel and it's hard to take days off of work to come up to Charleston ... So I just think it's very important to be able to offer these telemedicine (services) and to be able to give a different type of access."
"This is a really exciting time for us," said Montgomery General Hospital CEO Debbie Hill. "First of all, we really enjoy this beautiful facility (location of the ribbon-cutting ceremony) that the city has put on this property. It's wonderful for not only the community, but most of you know right there are 60 long-term care residents (Montgomery Rehab and Nursing), and this gives them a chance to have something outside the facility walls to have picnics with their family, if they want to fish or just to visit. This is an awesome thing to have right close to our facility.
"We're also very excited about this opportunity with Charleston Area Medical Center," Hill continued. "Our goal as Montgomery General is to take care of the primary needs of our community, and when I say our community, it's not just Montgomery. We have patients and staff up on the plateau in the Kincaid area, all the way up into Clay County to the border of Nicholas County, and down into Kanawha County towards Belle. So our community is much wider than just the City of Montgomery.
"And we want to make sure that we're here to provide primary care. And we want to make sure they have an ER so when that chest pain happens or that incident that they need emergency care, we're here for them."
The hospital also provides rehabilitation services, and "we've partnered many years with CAMC with that," she said. "A lot of those patients (open-heart and orthopedic surgeries) live right here in the Montgomery, Powellton, Boomer, Gauley Bridge area. But they don't want to stay in Charleston for rehab; they want to come home and have their rehab close to their families so that they can visit. Through our relationship with CAMC and others, we're able to do that."
The telemedicine addition is critical, Hill said. "But the piece that we had missing that I feel like they brought to the table this time was telemedicine. We learned through Covid that it's OK to look at a doctor through a screen. You don't have to be sitting in front of them. That was a concept that's been around for years, but especially the older population weren't truly comfortable with it. But, through Covid, we had to get comfortable with that, and it was OK.
"They can come right here to the same facility they get their primary care and see that same quality cardiologist, pulmonologist, whatever that specialist is right here in our facility. Then, if they need X-rays or labs or things like that, we can take care of that. We are very pleased with this relationship. I think it is a great asset for the community and will serve us well."
"We continue to work hard (to make progress in Montgomery)," said Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram. "I can't thank my staff enough. I can't thank Montgomery General Hospital enough for what they've done here. I compliment them all the time on the things they've done around here on the facility. BridgeValley Community and Technical College is coming to the table; we still have the dental hygiene school here."
He also mentioned Montgomery Prep Academy and Mountaineer Challenge Academy.
"This is an exciting thing," Ingram said of the telemedicine center. "It's really exciting that Charleston Area Medical Center has helped us do what we're doing here. We're building and they're helping us. And I can't thank Debbie (CEO Hill) and her staff enough for what they do at the hospital."
Jeff Goode, senior vice president for ambulatory services and regional hospitals, was among the other speakers Tuesday. He discussed the "network of care" made possible through the various telemedicine centers offered by CAMC and Vandalia. Among those present Tuesday were David Ramsey, president/CEO of Vandalia Health; Dr. Glenn Crotty Jr., president/CEO of CAMC; Michelle Coon, president of the health network; and Becky Harless, vice president of CAMC Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) delivered remarks on behalf of the congresswoman.
The Montgomery telemedicine hub can be reached at 304-442-1231. Billing will go through the Charleston office.
CAMC telemedicine centers are already in operation in locales such as Lewisburg, Marlinton, Princeton, Ripley, Summersville, Morgantown and Pocahontas County. For more information, visit camc.org/Telemedicine.
Email: email@example.com; follow on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @gb_scribe