Reprinted: UNC Research 8-23-2023
With $3.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, Carolina launched in August a five-year project to establish the Center for Virtual Care Value and Equity.
The grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will support research on the use of online services, remote monitoring and text-based messaging to deliver health care services remotely.
The center is led by Saif Khairat, associate professor and Beerstecher-Blackwell Distinguished Term Scholar in the UNC School of Nursing. Khairat’s projects have enhanced health care services and research within the digital health world.
“This groundbreaking initiative is pivotal for health care innovation and demonstrates Carolina’s leadership in virtual care research,” said Khairat, associate director of the Carolina Health Informatics Program and director of the Carolina Applied Informatics Research Lab. “The Center for ViVE will foster expertise in virtual care data and create workforce development opportunities with its partners throughout North Carolina and the nation.”
Making virtual care sustainable and equitable
Telehealth services have made health care more convenient for some but not for all. The challenge of promoting health equity in virtual care is often overlooked due to the complex issues involved in implementing virtual care, such as patient privacy, reimbursement models, new workflows and technology adoption.
ViVE will build a repository of real-world virtual care data not previously available to researchers. The center will develop frameworks to guide investigators through the design, implementation and evaluation of virtual care research, offering training and support throughout the process. Researchers will be able to request data, consult with experts and attend education and training events.
UNC’s North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute will support ViVE by collaborating with Carolina and UNC Health experts, as well as virtual care and telehealth researchers from RTI International, the American Heart Association, American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Through partnerships with the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program network, ViVE will disseminate and promote tools, educational resources and training to fill the critical gap in health access and equity.
“We are very fortunate to have such an amazing community at Carolina and throughout the region to support this work,” said ViVE co-investigator and UNC Health Chief Medical Informatics Officer David McSwain. “This collaborative effort can truly change the landscape of virtual care development not only in North Carolina, but around the world.”
“We expect this group to advance the availability of quality health care beyond the walls of the clinic, especially to those traditionally underserved by American medicine,” said Nicholas Shaheen, co-director of NC TraCS and chief of the UNC School of Medicine’s division of gastroenterology and hepatology.
“During the pandemic, we all realized virtual care’s importance,” said Spencer Dorn, ViVE co-investigator and professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine. “The newly funded center will help us determine how to harness virtual care to benefit all populations. This is core to our mission as the nation’s oldest public university.”