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Rural Kentucky and Indiana Hospitals Benefit from Telemedicine Grant Funds

Katherine Belcher
Release Date
Sep 22, 2014

USDA Rural Development State Director Tom Fern announced that Norton Healthcare has been selected to receive grant funds for the purchase of telemedicine equipment that will connect two rural Kentucky hospitals and one Indiana hospital with specialists from Norton Healthcare’s five hospitals in Louisville. The hospitals are Breckinridge Health in Hardinsburg, Kentucky, Westlake Regional Hospital in Columbia, Kentucky, and Scott Memorial Hospital in Scottsburg, Indiana.
Fern said the Norton Healthcare Foundation will receive $241,951 through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program. An additional $121,000 in support will be provided by the Norton Healthcare Foundation.
The DLT program is designed specifically to meet the educational and health care needs of rural America. Through loans, grants and loan/grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents.
A 2012 grant of $238,398 to the Norton Healthcare Foundation supported telemedicine programs at Harrison County Hospital in Corydon, Indiana, Carroll County Memorial Hospital in Carrollton, Kentucky, and Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield, Kentucky.
“This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” said Fern. “These funds will ensure that residents of rural Kentucky and Southern Indiana have access to the same medical care that is available to residents in larger cities.”
Rural Development funds will be used for the purchase of telemedicine equipment that will be installed at three rural hospitals that predominantly serve Breckinridge, Meade, Hancock, Columbia, Russell and Metcalfe counties in Kentucky, and Scott and Washington counties in Indiana.  Medical carts outfitted with video conferencing equipment and peripheral devices such as digital stethoscopes will connect to specialists operating laptop control stations at Norton Healthcare’s Louisville facilities. 
“This is great news for people in these rural communities who need expanded access to medical specialists located in Louisville,” said Steven Hester, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare. “Because of this grant, people will be able to receive specialty care locally and in a more-timely manner.”
The medical carts provide a way for the large hospital specialists to be at the patient’s bedside for examination, consultation, referrals, and prescriptions. Through a new video connection, the physicians also can access patient medical records and document their notes in the system. With an emphasis on pulmonary, cardiology, neurology, infectious disease and critical care, this project plans to reduce the number of patient transfers, reduce the outmigration of patients outside of their communities and the risk of transferring critically ill patients. This project will decrease the overall cost of patient care while increasing the quality of personalized care.
“Because of this grant, we now have the ability to better mobilize our resources and provide even better, more efficient care for the citizens of Kentucky and Southern Indiana,” said Lynnie Meyer, MSN, CFRE, R.N., chief development officer at Norton Healthcare. “We’re so pleased to be able to help improve the care provided to people in these areas.”
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has a portfolio of more than $160 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.