The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Kentucky announced Feb. 25 over $2 million in telemedicine and distance learning investments across Kentucky.
These four telemedicine and two distance learning projects will help improve health outcomes and education in rural areas, which are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance.
“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires an historic federal response. These investments by the Biden Administration will help millions of people living in rural places access health care and education opportunities that could change and save lives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”
Clover Fork Outpatient Medical Project Inc. will use a $60,461 grant to establish a telemedicine system connecting two primary care sites in Harlan County, Kentucky. The systems will reduce the need for providers, staff and patients to travel from one clinic to another, reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other diseases. It also will expand the availability of after-hours care, reducing the risk of overwhelming the emergency department and local community hospital.
• Big Sandy Health Care Inc. will use a $362,981 grant to provide health education using distance learning technology at six primary care clinics, 10 schools and five public health departments in Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin and Pike counties. The project will also provide remote monitoring technology for patients with chronic conditions who are enrolled in Big Sandy Health Care’s chronic disease management program.
• Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation will use a $869,604 grant to establish a telemedicine system for patients with acute and chronic conditions in 12 rural Kentucky counties. Interactive monitors and mobile telehealth equipment will connect five rural hospitals, 15 medical practices and two home health agencies with specialist physicians at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington.
• Kentucky Community & Technical College System will use a $167,802 grant to create a distance learning system linking the Kentucky Community & Technical College system to Webster County High School. Madisonville Community College in Muhlenberg County will own and maintain the equipment at both sites and will provide the required matching funds for the project.
• Memorial Hospital Inc. will use a $234,775 grant to establish telemedicine services for 9,365 rural Kentucky residents in Clay, Leslie, Jackson, Laurel, Whitley, Owsley and Bell counties. The project will reduce burdensome travel expenses for patients, improve patient compliance with referrals and provide much-needed specialty care.
• Ohio Valley Physicians Inc. will use a $429,841 grant to provide telehealth services in Floyd, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin and Pike counties in Kentucky; Cabell, Mingo, Jackson and Logan counties in West Virginia; Gallia, Lawrence and Scioto counties in Ohio; and Buchanan County in Virginia. Each site will have a dedicated telehealth room equipped with a large interactive touchscreen monitor, computer, camera and printer. Each hub or hub/end-user site will have two dedicated providers who will be provide telehealth services to patients at end-user sites. This project also will provide substance misuse treatment services.
Funding for these projects comes through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, which helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise. These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible in rural communities.