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Microsoft Grant Targets Rural Telehealth Projects in 3 States

Colorado-based Numbers4Health is receiving support through Microsoft's Airband Grant Fund to launch programs in Maine, Texas and California that expand broadband connectivity for telehealth.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A Colorado startup is receiving grant funding from Microsoft to expand its school-based telehealth platform to bring connected health services to underserved communities in California, Texas and Maine.

Numbers4Health got its start by providing mHealth software to schools to help in care management and coordination for injured student athletes. It provides “software tools for use at the point-of-care, anywhere. These tools are a perfect for use where Internet connectivity can be challenging, where specific medical expertise is only available via telemedicine, and everywhere that point-of-care data is necessary for health management and medical intervention.”

The company is expanding that platform to other venues, including health clinics, the military and even NASA. That expansion caught Microsoft’s attention, and Numbers4Health was recently named one of eight winners of the Airband Grant Fund.

“The best way to manage healthcare costs and improve health outcomes is to treat injury and illness as fast as possible,” Peg Molloy, the company’s managing director, said in a press release. “Numbers4Health puts health information software and technology at schools where injured student athletes can be quickly assessed. Microsoft's Airband Grant Fund is helping us make that happen.”

Numbers4Health is getting money and support for three different projects. Two of the grants target project to improve telehealth access in rural parts of Maine and Texas, while the third aims to bring connected health to Compton, Calif.

The grants are part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, part of a much larger company strategy to improve the nation’s broadband connectivity by 2022. Last year, in laying out that five-year plan, the tech giant released a 52-page report on developing so-called “TV white spaces spectrum” - unused UHV television band spectrum in the 600 MHz frequency range that enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees – to improve rural connectivity.

“Broadband access is … an important part of managing healthcare delivery and wellness programs,” the report states. “Indeed, the availability of telemedicine has been an important development in rural areas which often have fewer doctors per capita than urban areas.”

Through the Airband Grant Fund, Microsoft officials see entrepreneurs like Numbers4Health using white space spectrum and other technology to improve rural connectivity and increase access to healthcare and other services.

“Numbers4Health is working to ensure the citizens of rural Texas will have broadband access to critical telehealth solutions,” Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility, said in the Texas press release (similar press releases were issued for the California and Maine projects). “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help improve healthcare access in Texas.”

Other grant winners were Tribal Digital Village, a California-based company working to expand broadband connectivity to Native American populations; New York-based CVWireless, West Virginia-based Skylark Wireless; and broadband connectivity projects in Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya and Bangladesh.

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