Federal officials have announced almost $12 million in grants aimed at expanding access to telehealth services in rural parts of the country.
The awards are part of more than $35 million being issued to 50 rural organizations in 33 states by the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and are in line with President Donald Trump’s August 3 Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access.
Specifically, the HRSA is awarding $8.8 million to 30 organizations in 23 states through the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP), which aims to improve emergency care services in rural areas by expanding access to care providers through telemedicine platforms.
In addition, the HRSA is awarding roughly $2 million to support the Telehealth Focused Rural Health Research Center (TF-RHRC) Program, which will use the money to study how telehealth investments have improved access to care in rural populations. The money is split almost evenly between the University of Arkansas and the University of Iowa.
Finally, the University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio is getting almost $1 million to establish a Rural Telementoring Training Center (RTTC), while will help academic medical centers and other centers of excellence use telehealth to push best practices education out to primary care providers in rural and underserved areas.
“The HRSA programs highlighted today put in practice HHS’ broader vision and plan for transforming the nation’s rural health care system so that it can better support the unique needs of rural communities,” HRSA Administrator Tom Engels said in a press release. “Through these HRSA programs and by working hand in hand with our rural partners across the nation, we can improve access, quality and outcomes for rural communities.”
Other awards issued by the HRSA don’t specifically mention connected health, but could be used by the programs to develop new services that use telehealth or mHealth.
The HRSA is awarding nearly $5 million to support the Rural Health Research Center (RHRC) Program, which focuses on research to identify problems faced by rural communities and population health projects – including healthcare access and delivery efforts – targeting those problems. Universities in seven states are receiving these grants.
In addition, some $10 million will go to the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) Program, providing technical assistance to 30 hospitals served by Mississippi’s Delta Regional Authority. The program is coordinated through the National Rural Health Resource Center in Duluth, MN.
More than $8 million, meanwhile, will go to the Rural Residency Planning and Development (RRPD) Program across 10 states, which supports rural residency programs in family and internal medicine and psychiatry.
Finally, roughly $680,000 is earmarked for the Rural HIV/AIDS Planning Program, aimed at developing an integrated rural care network in four of the seven states – South Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arkansas – with the largest rural HIV burden.