ARH Awarded USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to Launch Telemedicine Program at Clinics

12/17/2015

Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) has been awarded a $267,866 Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement an intensive telemedicine program that will virtually eliminate the need for clinic patients to drive out of the area for some medical specialist visits.

Through the use of portable telemedicine units, patients at clinics throughout southeastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and the connecting region of Virginia will be able to visit with a variety of specialists via video conferencing. These specialists will be located at other ARH facilities or at larger urban medical centers. 

ARH will also be piloting the use of a portable telemedicine unit at a school clinic location at Southside Elementary School in Pike County. This particular unit will connect students with a medical provider without the student leaving the school, ultimately decreasing absenteeism and improving the student’s health. Overall, increasing the availability of these medical services will increase the access to care, furthermore decreasing costs for the region’s residents. 

The grant funds are among the $23.5 million the USDA is investing in 75 projects in 31 states and the Western Pacific to expand distance learning and telemedicine opportunities in rural areas.

“Rural communities often lack access to specialized medical care or advanced educational opportunities necessary for stronger rural economies,” said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Vilsack. “These grants will help increase access to health care and many other essential services.” 

The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. They may also be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to provide educational services to rural communities. 
Since 2009, USDA has provided more than $213 million in loans and grants for 634 distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas nationwide.

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Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), is a not-for-profit health system operating 11 hospitals, multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies in Kentucky and West Virginia. ARH employs nearly 5,000 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $297 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third largest private employer in southern West Virginia, and is consistently recognized for its medical excellence.

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