Potomac Valley Hospital (PVH), a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital in Keyser, WV, is part of the West Virginia University Health System, the state’s largest health system. Home to about 5,500 residents, the town is situated in a valley near the Potomac River, New Creek Mountain and the Allegheny Front.
J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital (RMH), a 690-bed academic medical center and Level 1 Trauma center about 90 minutes from PVH in Morgantown, WV, is the system’s flagship hospital. As the system has grown and referral patterns have changed, Ruby frequently has too many patients waiting for too few beds. In stark contrast, Potomac Valley has seen volumes shrink to the point that its census was zero and it was losing $1M per year. The hospital was forced to close its ICU and struggled to retain staff.
To boost volumes and keep higher-acuity Mineral County patients close to home—a win for the rural hospital, the system, patients and an over-capacity Ruby Memorial—PVH is a pilot site for a telemedicine Intensive Care Unit Program initiative of the West Virginia University Health System. In October 2018, the Virtual ICU admitted 35 patients in its first month of operation. The program allows PVH providers to collaborate with board certified intensivists from RMH and offer quality care for higher-acuity cases while keeping patients close to home.