UF Health Jacksonville has been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin using telemedicine to improve care for patients living with HIV in an urban setting. The grant will allow patients who are currently seen in person within the UF Health system to use computers, tablets and even smartphones for face-to-face consultations with their physicians and caregivers.
The model has been proven to work in rural settings where access to specialists is limited. This project, the only one of its kind nationally to receive a CDC grant, aims to achieve the same results in an urban setting by helping patients overcome barriers to care, such as transportation, work schedules or other time-consuming situations.
“Telemedicine is growing throughout health care, and our belief is it can really provide help to patients living with HIV who may have even more barriers to overcome to receive treatment,” said Reetu Grewal, M.D., an assistant professor of community health and family medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville who is leading the research project. “Jacksonville is one of the largest cities in land mass, so at times it can be challenging for some of our patients who use public transportation to get to one of our clinics. We’re hopeful this can help.”
Patients being treated by UF Health providers can still come to one of the system’s primary care sites throughout Northeast Florida, but the new service is a second option that can save time for some who would otherwise need several hours to get to and from an office.
“This is a great addition to another telemedicine program we offer, Virtual Visits, which gives all patients in our system the opportunity to talk with physicians anywhere they can use a portable device like their smartphones,” said Nipa Shah, M.D., a professor and chair of community health and family medicine at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.
The proposal approved by the CDC will take place over three years and be administered through the UF Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Service, or UF CARES, and UF Health primary care practices that serve predominantly minority patients living with HIV.
The program will seek to increase efficiency of delivery and accessibility to medical care and case management services by reducing patient-level barriers including transportation and visit time, and system-level barriers such as physician caseload and appointment backlogs associated with retention.
“Research is an incredibly important part of the mission of this organization, and this project is another example of finding a way to improve the lives of our patients,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “We’ll continue pushing forward in a way that helps the residents of Northeast Florida.”
UF CARES is a comprehensive HIV/AIDS program serving women, adolescents, children and families living with HIV/AIDS who reside in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. Over the past 20 years, UF CARES has provided services to Duval County, predominately in the downtown and northwest sections of Jacksonville. The program will also include the collaborating community-based organization Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network, or JASMYN.