Seven North Dakota programs receive health IT grants

By Bernie Monegain
10:04 AM

Seven of the many applicants to the Rural Health Program Awards, funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND), together will receive $375,000 in funding for 2011.

"Funding these programs means leveraging the smart use of technology to benefit our rural members," said Paul von Ebers, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. "Applicants for these grants continue to raise the bar – and demonstrate the need – for collaboration that puts ideas into action which can impact accessibility and efficiency."

The program is administered through the Center of Rural Health (CRH) at the University of North Dakota, School of Medicine and Health Sciences. It is an example of how collaboration can result in innovative solutions that overcome size and distance, while reducing redundancy and increasing access and efficiency, said von Ebers.

The seven 2011 awards all met the key criteria of collaboration, sharing of communication and reduction of duplication of services, he said. An external grant review committee reviewed the applications to the program, with the highest priority given to those programs geared towards the development and promotion of health information technology.

Receiving the awards are:

  • Hospice of the Red River Valley of Fargo will apply the funds toward the cost of implementing software to improve communication and care coordination between rural and urban providers across the entire hospice patient care experience.
  • Catholic Health Initiatives of Fargo will use the funds to fully integrate two-way video support in emergency rooms of four critical access hospitals in Carrington, Lisbon, Valley City and Devils Lake. The telehealth technology will provide round-the-clock access to emergency care specialists at Avera, Sioux Falls, S.D. that will ensure timely, high quality care specific to emergency needs.
  • St. Alexius Foundation of Bismarck will use the grant for telehealth equipment to daily monitor patients, diagnosed with chronic diseases, in their homes after a hospital discharge. The partners in this project are Community Memorial Hospital, Turtle Lake; Garrison Family Clinic, Garrison Memorial Hospital and Nursing Facility; Northland Community Health Centers in Turtle Lake and McClusky; Washburn Family Clinic.
  • Ye Olde Medicine Center of Park River plans to use the funds to expand the Park River telepharmacy services to Drayton, N. D. Drayton recently lost pharmacy services due to the retirement of their pharmacist. This is a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure continuing pharmacy services to the community and to support the local medical providers.
  • Wishek Hospital Clinic Association of Wishek will use the grant to support the implementation of electronic medical records in the two critical access hospitals in Wishek and Ashley.
  • St. Andrew's Health Center of Bottineau on behalf of Northwest Alliance for Information Technology (NWAIT) will use the funds to expand data storage capacity, which will allow the 10 rural hospitals that make up NWAIT to expand and maximize the use of their electronic health records and shared patient information.
  • Garrison Memorial Hospital of Garrison will use the grant to implement wireless electrocardiogram (ECG) units in Community Memorial Hospital, Turtle Lake and Garrison and Washburn clinics. The units will allow test results to be transmitted over a secure wireless connection, so they can be viewed by the on-call cardiologists at St. Alexius Medical Center immediately. Those doctors will then be able to look at the ECG, and make decisions on patient status and what care is necessary.

"Electronic health records, as well as telehealth technology, are progressive tools for expanding access and collaboration between providers, rural and urban, to ensure top quality care for North Dakota residents." said Lynette Dickson, the grant program's director at the Center for Rural Health. "Current federal initiatives are necessitating the accelerated adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records and these grants are a much appreciated investment in our rural communities."

A total of 66 grants have been awarded since the program was first initiated by BCBSND in 2001 as an effort to strengthen the rural health delivery system in North Dakota. Through the agreement with BCBSND to help develop and administer the program, the CRH facilitates the application process and review, notifies the grantees of their award determinations, plus monitors each program's progress through the year and releases the grant funds. Slightly more than $3 million has been allocated since the program's inception.

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