Dartmouth-Hitchcock and its Center for Telehealth have been awarded two telemedicine grants totaling $998,356 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deploy telemedicine equipment and services across six counties in rural New Hampshire and seven counties in rural Vermont. The grants, awarded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service, were announced today by the USDA.
"These grants will give some of the most rural communities in New Hampshire and Vermont access to world class health care usually only found in larger metropolitan areas,” said USDA RD Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. “Too often rural Americans are forced to travel long distances to access health care. In some cases, these distances prevent timely access to routine health care that can turn a minor problem into a life threatening problem."
A grant of $500,000 will be used to expand the technology infrastructure, including software and equipment, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and to purchase telemedical equipment for 18 sites in New Hampshire. The system is projected to provide access to medical services for more than 5,000 rural residents.
The second grant of $498,356 will be used to purchase telemedical carts for eight sites in New Hampshire and 15 in Vermont, which include rural acute care hospitals, ambulatory care sites, rehabilitation sites and behavioral health centers. Medical facilities in seven Vermont counties (Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor) and six New Hampshire counties (Cheshire, Coos, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Sullivan) will benefit from the grants.
"Telemedicine is a critical piece of the sustainable health system Dartmouth-Hitchcock is working to create," said Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO and President Dr. James N. Weinstein. “To really serve the people of our region, we need to get health care to them where they live. In emergency situations, access to our specialists has been shown to save lives. For more routine care and monitoring, telemedicine allows us to partner with providers in the community to assure the highest quality care with convenience and lower cost."
Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Center for Telehealth was launched in 2012, bringing together innovative technologies with the expertise of physicians, educators, communications specialists and researchers who are all working together to bring the highest quality care to patients throughout the region. Through various telehealth offerings, the Center is committed to connecting health care providers and patients throughout northern New England and beyond.
"Our efforts in telehealth to date, particularly in our telestroke program, are already showing positive results for our patients,” said Sarah N. Pletcher MD, director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Center for Telehealth. “We’re honored that USDA has awarded Dartmouth-Hitchcock these grants, to help us expand our reach for the benefit of patients in the furthest reaches of northern New England."
Members of New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation heralded the new investments in New Hampshire’s health care infrastructure.
Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster said: "The Northern New England Telemedicine Project will help increase access to health care services and improve community health outcomes by connecting rural medical providers with the resources of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. This critical funding will help reduce costs to patients who will not be required to travel great distances for a specialist appointment. It will also reduce overall health care costs by facilitating the timely involvement of specialists, taking advantage of clinical opportunities and averting clinical complications."
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said: "Telemedicine is critical to meeting the health care needs of rural communities throughout America. I am pleased to see the USDA making such a significant investment to implement this technology in the Granite State."
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant program provides funding for rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries to offer services through broadband networks. On Feb. 4, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced 49 grants in 25 states totaling approximately $16 million.
USDA RD administers and manages housing, business, and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. For more information on USDA RD or the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/nh-vtHome.html or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000 in Vermont and (603) 223-6035 in New Hampshire.