WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has awarded more than $4.5 million in grants for telehealth projects involving virtual physician visits, remote patient monitoring, chronic health management and telestroke.
The grants were part of more than $23 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants to organizations and agencies in 29 states to improve access to telehealth for rural and underserved areas, and to establish distance learning programs.
The Oneida-Lewis Chapter of The Arc, a nonprofit human-services agency that provides advocacy and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York, received a grant of $474,258 for its Non-Virtual Individualized Telehealth Experience, which uses video technologies to deliver health care.
“This will help us eliminate existing barriers to quality health care for people living in rural areas,” said Karen Korotzer, CEO of Arc Oneida-Lewis.
The grant will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to connect a hub in Utica with 25 residential and day service sites in Oneida and Lewis counties. The investment will provide access to specialized medical professionals and services, as well as eliminate travel from rural areas to urban medical centers. The NVITE project serves about 2,500 individuals with disabilities, said Korotzer.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham received a $495,000 grant to expand its telehealth network to hospitals and medical centers across the state by purchasing videoconferencing technologies, connected medical devices and other infrastructure. The UAB plans to equip a total of 50 sites by the end of 2018.
Dr. Eric Wallace, medical director of telehealth at UAB, said technology like telehealth is critical to keeping rural patients connected with their caregivers without having to travel hundreds of miles for an office visit.
That thinking is in line with the motivations of the USDA in awarding the grants.
“Connecting rural Americans to quality health care services is an innovative and important tool in our efforts to facilitate economic growth, job creation and quality of life in rural America,” said Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for rural development, in a statement.