USDA awards 34 rural telemedicine grants

By Bernie Monegain
08:45 AM

Thirty-four states will receive more than $30 million in funding from the Department of Agriculture to improve access to healthcare and educational services in rural areas.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding from USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program on Dec. 8.

[Q&A: Lt. Col. Geesey on telemedicine in the theater of war.]

"This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas," said Vilsack. "President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen."

The grants, administered by USDA Rural Development through its Rural Utilities Service, will help fund 100 distance learning and telemedicine projects, including $500,000 for the Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society to buy video equipment for a ship-based medical examining room.

Also, Eastern Maine HomeCare will receive $50,000 to install telemonitoring equipment to provide remote health care services to elderly residents and people with chronic conditions.

[See also: Obama's new rural jobs initiative includes health IT.]

Other telehealth grants:

  • In Sac City, Iowa, Loring Hospital will receive video conferencing equipment to connect the emergency room, outpatient and inpatient centers with local schools and area nursing homes. The Kiamichi Technology Center in Oklahoma will use grant funds to provide training to firefighters, emergency medical technicians and community members.
  • Missouri-based Mercy health system will receive $500,000 to implement telehealth tools linking St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis to 12 rural hospitals in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma;
  • South Dakota-based Sanford Health will use its $489,000 to install mobile medical carts equipped with cameras, digital stethoscopes and teleconferencing tools at 39 rural clinics and hospitals in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

A list of awardees is available here.