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Improved Healthcare in the Illinois Delta Region

Name
Kate O'Hara
City
Champaign
Release Date
Feb 10, 2015

A world-class telemedicine program for the nearly 250,000 residents of the Illinois Delta Region is taking a big step forward. A Delta Health Care Services Grant from USDA Rural Development for $488,364 has been awarded to Carbondale, IL based Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH), which will work with additional hospitals and health care organizations to create the Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative. The funding will allow SIH to purchase equipment and make physical upgrades for this peer-to-peer network that will initially connect seven rural hospitals, including four critical access hospitals, to improve the accessibility and quality of patient care. The initiative will enable participating organizations to deliver education, diagnosis or medicine between remote locations via telecommunications in “real time.”

 “The development of the Southern Illinois Telemedicine network is made possible through the energy and support of its members. This funding by the USDA empowers this work with the necessary resources to improve access and collaborate around healthcare service critical to the needs of our residents. The initial work will involve standing up comprehensive resources to bring advanced stroke diagnosis and treatment to each of the organizations in the telehealth network, and simultaneously create structure for additional significant needs in a variety of specialties ranging from fetal ultrasound to behavioral health. We are proud to help lead this work,” said Herrin Hospital Vice President and Administrator Terence Farrell.

The hospitals involved in the Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative includes SIH and its three hospitals, which include Herrin Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro, as well as Union County Hospital in Anna, Marshall Browning Hospital in DuQuoin, Harrisburg Medical Center and Hamilton County Hospital in McLeansboro. The network also includes the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Illinois Hospital Association, and Connect SI.

 “Part of the Rural Development mission is to ensure that beyond the infrastructure of electricity, beyond the infrastructure of water and waste disposal, our rural communities have the technological infrastructure to remain successful and competitive,” said Colleen Callahan, Illinois Rural Development Director. “This grant is an investment in the Illinois Delta Region; distance learning and telemedicine represents increased opportunity for healthy residents and an educated workforce.

The Illinois Delta Region is rural in nature and comprised of 16 counties. Each county has been classified as medically underserved by the federal Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). This means there is a known shortage
of primary medical care in the counties, including too few medical, dental and mental health providers. The implementation of a telemedicine network will improve provider access and diagnostic communications resulting in better patient care and health, and reduce the time and travel burdens for the patient.

The Delta Health Care Services Grant Program provides financial assistance to address the continued unmet health needs in the Delta Region through cooperation among health care professionals, institutions of higher education, research institutions and other entities in the Delta Region.

 Program funding was provided under Section 379G of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, better known as the 2008 Farm Bill.