Feds announce plans to launch 3 new telehealth resource centers
The nation’s network of telehealth resource centers currently resembles an incomplete quilt, with nine centers covering parts of the country while leaving some rather conspicuous regions uncovered. This week, that quilt began to look a little more complete.
The U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration has awarded Regional Telehealth Resource Center grants of almost $1 million apiece to three organizations charged with launching centers based in Maine, Indiana and Virginia, creating public-private partnerships that will offer guidance and resources to those looking to enter this fast-growing segment of the healthcare network.
In Maine, the non-profit Medical Care Development, Inc., based in Augusta, will use a three-year grant of $325,000 each year to establish the NorthEast Telehealth Resource Center (NETRC), to promote telehealth in the six New England states and New York. The group will work with the Fletcher Allen Health Care Telemedicine Program at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Maine Telemedicine Services Division of the Regional Medical Center in Lubec, Maine, along the Canadian border.
“This award is a result of the excellent work the Maine Telehealth Collaborative has done over the past years to develop a telehealth network both in Maine and throughout New England,” said Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control (ME CDC), which helped organize the collaborative.
Margaret I. Gradie, program manager at Medical Care Development, said the success of the collaborative’s telehealth conference, held for the past two years at the University of Maine in Orono, points to the interest in developing telehealth programs throughout the Northeast. Last year’s conference featured Dale Alverson, director of the Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and then-president of the American Telemedicine Association, who pointed out that some of the nation’s earliest telemedicine efforts originated in Maine.
Gradie said the NETRC will draw on the successes of other resource centers around the country in offering technical assistance and educational activities, as well as setting up regional conferences and user forums.
“The goal … is not to offer telehealth itself, but to serve as a sort of matchmaker,” she said. “We want to encourage the growth of telehealth throughout the Northeast and create a favorable environment.”
In Charlottesville, Va., the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth will use its grant to establish the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center, which will link urban and rural healthcare providers in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. Officials hope to launch the resource center in October.