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USDA Grants Help Rural Communities Connect

January 12, 2012
at 7:37 am PST

A recent study from the U.K. Department of Health finds that using remote monitoring technology to keep tabs on patients’ blood sugar and cardiopulmonary disease can reduce the risk of patient mortality by up to 45 percent. With statistics like this, hospitals and medical clinics can’t afford not to embrace telehealth technologies. Not to mention, telehealth is quickly becoming a competitive differentiator in some markets around the U.S. According to Mark Probst, CIO for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, “I don’t see how the hospital CEO can ignore telemedicine.”

While tech-savvy patients in urban areas will likely begin to demand more user-friendly access to healthcare, therefore driving the adoption of telehealth in metropolitan-area hospitals, the technology is more than just a convenience for residents in rural areas; it can be the difference between life and death.

Thanks to a recent flurry of grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), just on the heels of another grant announcement for the Mississippi Delta region, telehealth technology is reaching a growing number of rural communities in 34 states. “Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. We couldn’t agree more.

The grants will enable the Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society to buy video equipment for a ship-based medical examining room. Eastern Maine HomeCare will use the grants to install telemonitoring equipment to provide remote health care services to elderly resident and people with chronic conditions. In Sac City, Iowa, Loring Hospital will receive video conferencing equipment to connect the ER, outpatient and inpatient centers with local schools and area nursing homes. In Portland, another USDA grant will be used to expand a system that allows doctors to treat stroke patients remotely. As we’ve written before, telehealth can be vital for stroke patients due to the time-critical diagnosis and treatment. And those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the full list of grant recipients here.

Telehealth programs are a win-win for all involved. Not only are hospitals saving money, they are helping save lives. Patients receive improved care and also save money and time by not having to travel hours to get to a hospital to see a specialist. Increasing grant availability highlights the growing acceptance and need for telehealth applications. Is your community benefiting from collaborative technologies? Tell us how!

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