Telehealth project will serve NMMC-Eupora

From Press Reports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission have selected the University of Mississippi Medical Center for a three-year, $578,360 distance-learning and telemedicine service grant, “Telemedicine Emergency and Specialty Care for Appalachia in North Mississippi.”

The USDA will fund $378,360 with a $200,000 match from ARC.

The sites, considered “medically underserved areas” and “health-professional-shortage areas” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, include North Mississippi Medical Center-Eupora.

The other nine sites are Calhoun County Medical Clinic in Calhoun City, Trace Regional Hospital in Houston, Itawamba County Hospital in Fulton, Kemper County Medical Center in DeKalb, Tishomingo Health Services in Iuka, Yalobusha General Hospital in Water Valley, North Mississippi Medical Center-Pontotoc, Kilmichael Hospital and Holmes County Hospital in Lexington.

Representatives from the USDA and UMMC announced the grant agreement at a joint press conference March 6 at the UBS Building in Jackson.

The grant will expand the number of health-care delivery sites throughout the state linked to the medical center by the state-of-the-art telemedicine network to 104.

According to Dr. Kristi Henderson, chief advanced practice officer and director of the Center for TeleHealth at UMMC, the TESCAN grant will provide the capital equipment necessary for the medical center’s TeleHealth Program to serve 10 additional sites, including nine Appalachian counties and one Mississippi Delta county.

“Thanks to the USDA and ARC, this program will expand UMMC’s proven TeleHealth Program to an additional 10 rural hospitals in the Appalachian areas of Mississippi,” Henderson said. “Emergency and specialty health-care providers will now be accessible in these rural communities, which will save lives and improve Mississippians’ health.

“This program is a great example of how partnerships between hospitals can extend world-class health care to all Mississippians using innovative solutions.”

The agreement will augment the services delivered by existing medical providers in the rural areas by connecting them with the state’s only academic medical center and trauma center. The grant will position UMMC as a “hub site” for each of the county-based hospitals, ultimately reaching 168,862 additional rural residents.

The medical center has been providing emergency and specialty-care consult services via telemedicine to community hospitals throughout Mississippi since 2003.

“This project provides rural residents with access to better health-care options without the financial hardships,” said Trina George, Mississippi state director of USDA rural development. “The level of health care you receive should not be based on where you live or your economic status.

“We must continue to make investments to connect our rural residents to technology that will help them live a healthier lifestyle.”

George said providing rural residents with access to specialty care through telemedicine will “greatly improve” local health outcomes while decreasing the cost of care and the financial burdens placed on families.

The TESCAN grant is being provided through the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program, which provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance.

Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.