MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Mon General Hospital was rewarded $283,396 from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement a telehealth platform that will help provide the full spectrum of telehealth visits for patients, including COVID-19 screening and diagnosis, medication management, chronic disease management and behavioral health visits. 

The FCC grant is funded through its COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill.

Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs for Mon Health System Dr. Gregory Nelcamp said the health system already had a telehealth program in place at all of its hospitals, which are: Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Preston Memorial Hospital and Mon Health Medical Center. He said there is even a telehealth system established at their affiliate Grafton City Hospital.

However, Nelcamp said, the FCC money will help it expand its program that began with stroke telemedicine and neurology telemedicine programs before having to implement an aggressive telemedicine strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic, he added, has proven to the health system that telemedicine is the future and so the grant money is appreciated.

“We are indeed, there is no doubt,” Nelcamp said. “We’re very grateful both to the FCC and very appreciative of the support we received from Senators Manchin and Capito, encouraging the FCC to consider Mon Health and the citizens of North Central West Virginia. I think that these resources will help Mon Health System on its continuing journey to expand telehealth services.”

One of the reasons telehealth is the future of medicine for Mon Health, Nelcamp said, is because of West Virginia’s largely rural population. He said citizens face transportation difficulties and recent issues with COVID-19 means the health system wants to keep as many high-risk patients out of the hospital and in their homes as possible.

“I think telehealth is just going to be a big part of the future, the technology is wonderful,” Nelcamp said. “Given the abilities that our systems have telehealth and televisits is a true and meaningful interaction with your healthcare professional. These resources will help Mon as we continue to evolve.”

The next step in the evolution of telehealth, Nelcamp said, is addressing the technological difficulties of many patients. Right now Mon Health uses a fully functioning video system, however, many West Virginians do not have the necessary devices like tablets, smartphones and computers, which are need to take advantage of telehealth services. Furthermore, he said, if they do have the devices they may lack access to the internet.

Figuring out how to overcome this challenge will be integral to advancing telehealth capabilities. Nelcamp said in the future they want to be able to assess a patient’s blood pressure, glucose, weight and many other things all through remote monitoring.

Nelcamp said while telehealth very promising, it does not take away from the fact that there are times when a patient must be attended to in person.

“I want to remind everyone that while telehealth is wonderful, there are still times when you need to come to the doctor,” Nelcamp said. “And if you do need to come to the clinic, if you do need to come to the hospital, to all of the facilities of the Mon Health System, they are taking all the appropriate precautions with cleaning and masking, with appropriate restrictions and it is absolutely safe to come to the hospital when you need to.”

The grant money Mon General is receiving is part of the FCC’s 12th round of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Applications. In the previous round, WVU Medicine also received money to expand its telehealth services.

In total, the FCC has approved 444 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of $157.64 million in funding.