Roughly half of the 133 grants announced by the department, totaling $42.5 million, will help bankroll the deployment of telemedicine programs.

USDA announces dozens of grants to support rural telehealth rollouts

By Dave Muoio
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The US Department of Agriculture announced new grant investments in late November for infrastructure aimed at expanding education and healthcare access among rural US residents.

The full bundle consists of 133 grants totaling $42.5 million, and are spread across 37 states and two US territories.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

Roughly half of these grants are being allotted for telemedicine-focused projects, according to the department’s full list of new projects.

Among the more substantive projects are: a $460,820 grant to Kentucky-based Owensboro Health to install telemedicine equipment across 10 sites; a $457,605 grant to Indiana University Health for the installation of telemedicine equipment in six primary care officers and seven critical access hospitals, for the delivery of opioid treatment, and behavioral health services; a $403,332 grant for the Georgia’s Mercer University to provide a remote behavioral health monitoring program across 10 sites; and a $496,349 grant to Mercy Virtual that will bring video telemedicine equipment to nine multi-state sites.

Each of these projects is slated to provide remote health services to tens of thousands of residents living in remote areas, according to the USDA. However, it’s worth highlighting a report published last year by the same department suggesting that rural residents have been less likely than their urban counterparts to partake in online research, maintenance and monitoring services.

THE LARGER TREND

These grants are the latest push from the federal government to improve rural healthcare access via telemedicine.

The FCC in particular has spent the last couple of years pushing forward a $100 million initiative that would provide a major discount to providers establishing broadband-based telehealth programs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, has been a longtime proponent of telehealth technologies, and boasts a number of healthcare wins tied to these programs.

ON THE RECORD

“Distance learning and telemedicine make it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of economic, health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald LaVoy said in the announcement. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary [Sonny] Perdue, USDA is committed to partnering with rural communities to help them improve their quality of life, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”