Urbana, Ill. (WCIA) – Carle Health has received a grant of $544,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve rural access to telemedicine.
According to officials, this grant will help connect nearly 200,000 rural residents in southeastern Illinois to specialists and other providers across the Carle healthcare system.
“Telemedicine is truly revolutionizing the way we are able to care for patients,” Suzanne Sampson, senior vice president, Transformation Services, Carle Health said. “These funds are going to provide critical telemedicine resources to rural communities to bring them the care they need right where they are.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, telemedicine has become a significant way for patients to receive care.
“The last two years alone have shown us how important having access to broadband infrastructure is to the success of any community, but especially remote rural areas with greater physical and geographic barriers,” Molly Hammond, acting state director, USDA said. “The investments being announced today will help to continue to bridge the ‘digital divide’ in rural communities by expanding access to important health care and educational services like telemedicine and distance learning.”
Officials said patients in rural communities face unique challenges in healthcare, from transportation to limited access to certain specialists. Funds from this grant will support rural patients at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney by connecting them to these resources at Carle Foundation Hospital. This connectivity will reduce the need to transfer these patients to a different facility to receive the care they need. It will also reduce the number of used beds at larger facilities, increasing access for more regional patients who need a higher level of care.
Some of the projects funded by this grant include state-of-the-art equipment to create telemedicine endpoints in 30 individual patient rooms at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital. These in-room telehealth solutions will allow a remote provider located hundreds of miles away to be right at the bedside of a patient in Olney. Critical access areas, such as the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency department (ED) and other units will pilot this program.
Carle will also invest in mobile telemedicine carts for staff to use in patient rooms throughout the facility. This will allow providers to be at the bedside of any patient whether they are in a telemedicine-enabled room or not.
While funds from this grant will pilot this in-room solution at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, Carle intends to expand this access to more patients system-wide in the future.