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USDA Announces Funding for 7 New Telemedicine Projects

The grants, part of the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, target rural healthcare providers looking for ways to improve access and expand new services.

By Eric Wicklund

- Seven more telemedicine programs are receiving grant funding from the US Department of Agriculture, continuing a federal effort to bring much-needed healthcare services to rural regions beset by access issues and struggling with opioid abuse.

"These investments will help provide better health care and educational opportunities for rural residents," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. "Hospitals, schools and training centers across the country are successfully using telecommunications to deliver quality educational and medical services. Telemedicine, for example, can help treat patients who are struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders that disproportionately affect rural areas by allowing rural hospitals to connect with resources in other health care facilities across the country to better diagnose and treat individuals."

The new programs join 36 announced in July through the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, focused primarily on rural America.

Grants are going to:

  • The East Central Mississippi Health Network in Meridian, which is getting $125,557 to create a hub-and-spoke telemedicine network connecting 15 healthcare sites in Mississippi and another three sites in neighboring Alabama;
  • Baxter County Regional Hospital in Mountain Home, Ark., which is getting $320,538 to launch a telehealth platform that will include a 24-hour nurse help line and remote patient monitoring program, designed to improve care management and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and ER visits;
  • The Landon Pediatric Foundation of Ventura, Calif., which is getting $221,230 to place telemedicine carts in several rural hospitals and clinics and a create an online program to train doctors, nurses and physician assistants to use them;
  • The Delta Health Alliance in Leland, Miss., which is getting $396,530 to purchase telemedicine equipment and help train staff members in five rural health clinics;
  • Charles Cole Memorial Hospital in Coudersport, Pa., which is getting $50,336 to launch a telemedicine platform connecting the hospital to nine rural health clinics and wellness centers in eastern Pennsylvania and two orthopedic centers in neighboring New York;
  • McLeod Regional Medical Center of the Pee Dee in Florence, S.C., which is getting $420,092 to create a telemedicine platform linking the hospital with seven affiliated healthcare sites in South Carolina to offer primary and mental healthcare, as well as occupational health services and continuing medical education; and
  • Ministry Health Care of Wisconsin, which is getting $432,258 to expand an existing telemedicine program to clinics in western and eastern Wisconsin, allowing nurse practitioners to connect with physicians in 15 new sites in a hub-and-spoke model.

In addition, two grants awarded under the Distance Learning category also offer telemedicine services. They are:

  • The South Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in Pueblo, Colo., whose $183,597 grant includes funding for a teletherapy program reaching 12 elementary, junior and senior high schools and two county administrative offices; and
  • Flathead Valley Community College in Kallispell, Mont., whose $83,270 grant will be used to purchase videoconferencing equipment that allows rural students to access healthcare instruction, connect with health clinics for internships and help meet the need for nurses in remote communities.

Vilsack was selected by President Barack Obama this past January to lead a federal effort to combat opioid abuse and dependence. Part of that effort includes funding telemedicine and mHealth programs that include counseling, medication management and pain management.

Dig Deeper:

More Telemedicine Grants Aimed at Fighting Drug Abuse

Project ECHO Poised to Become a National Telehealth Model

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