Telehealth programs have long held special significance for remote areas, and now a new series of USDA grants could help spur implementation of telemedicine in these areas. According to a recent blog post on Health IT Buzz, the latest Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants will make a total of $8.6 million available to practitioners in more than 30 states across the country.
Individually, these grants target efforts in different fields of medicine, from 3D imaging systems to video cameras for remote conferencing. These disbursements also accompany several similar initiatives announced as part of National Rural Health Day, November 20. A press release from the USDA detailed other grants that equal more than $20 million, part of a series of efforts to support rural communities in other areas, such as through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
In this statement, the United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack described the positive impact that supporting rural healthcare will have on area residents.
"Delivering these programs to rural communities that often do not have access to quality, affordable medical and educational services has tremendous economic and social benefits," he said. "They also mean that people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized health care services." He went on to emphasize the importance of the Affordable Care Act in addressing the needs of rural patients, since this demographic is more likely to develop "chronic conditions."
To make the most of a widespread telehealth program, medical groups should assess how prepared they are and turn to healthcare consulting firms when they need insight regarding correct procedure for medical IT. It's especially important to make sure that the individuals most at risk are given access to proper care.