U.S. gives $6 million grant for rural telehealth projects

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted $6 million in funding to establish 10 telemedicine and health care projects to six states that have areas that are currently lacking adequate care.

"[This] funding can help improve the health of rural residents who live in the south central portion of the country," says Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary. "These projects can provide care to patients currently receiving no care at all and hopefully reduce the incidence of stroke, mental illness, and other health disorders in rural regions."

Established under the 2008 Farm Bill, the grants are awarded to health care professionals and institutions of research and higher education, to serve communities with no more than 50,000 inhabitants to address unmet health needs in the Delta region, which comprises the 252 counties within the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, says USDA.

In Alabama, $384,000 will be given to finance a Mobile Health Van Program, which will provide telemedicine to remote communities.  According to USDA, the mobile medical van will be an independent unit with the capability of providing healthcare/clinic services.

In Arkansas, $162,000 will go toward three telehealth centers to enable nursing home medical staff to consult with distant medical personnel, says USDA.

In Kentucky, $233,000 will go toward a TeleCare Project, providing equipment and resources for telehealth infrastructure to five rural hospitals, two smaller hospitals, and one acute care hospital in Kentucky. The project will link the eight hospitals into one network, says USDA

Over $699,000 will finance an Electronic Intensive Care Unit Network in Mississippi. The network will link five hospitals in impoverished areas. as well as connect the rural hospitals with a critical care center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, according to USDA.

In Louisiana, $364,000 will finance the Louisiana Nursing Home Telehealth Project to provide healthcare consultation including cardiology, pulmonology, nephrology, oncology, and wound care, to five rural nursing homes.

Another $63,000 grant will finance a telemental health program for residents in two of the most impoverished parishes in Louisiana, through video conference-enabled psychiatric counseling, pre-hospitalization assessment, post-hospital follow up care, outpatient visits, and medication management.

Lastly, $270,000 will finance the Acute Stroke System for Emergent Regional Telemedicine to eight rural hospitals in Louisiana. The telemedicine project will provide the hospitals with access to a stroke specialist through teleconferencing.

Other projects covered under the grant include an additional $2.9 million to finance an Urgent Care Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, $384,000 to finance medical equipment in two state schools, and $520,000 to finance distance learning equipment in remote areas of Illinois.

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