Grant connects UMMC to rural health care

news_medical_greenBy Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Four Northeast Mississippi health care facilities have been selected to participate in a telemedicine grant through University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Calhoun County Medical Clinic in Calhoun City, Trace Regional Medical Center in Houston, NMMC-Pontotoc and NMMC-Iuka each will receive a telemedicine cart that will allow health care providers at those facilities to consult with the academic medical center and trauma center in Jackson.

“Our hope is to bring them more access to those subspecialties that they don’t have in their communities,” said Kristi Henderson, a UMMC nursing professor who serves as the director of telehealth. “We want to help fill gaps or add additional capacity.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission have funded a $578,000 distance-learning and telemedicine grant to nine hospitals in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents in areas that are considered medically underserved and have health professional shortage areas. A 10th site is being finalized for the grant. The new sites will bring UMMC’s telehealth system to 104 sites and connect 168,000 rural residents.

The mobile telemedicine carts have two-way, secure audio-visual connections between UMMC and the rural facilities. The carts will be set up to connect with UMMC, but the facilities also will be able to use them to connect with other telehealth sites, Henderson said. For example, the NMMC sites could use them to connect with specialists at NMMC-Tupelo, too.

UMMC is leading the way in establishing telemedicine networks that will allow the state to extend the reach of medical specialists, said Dr. Mark Williams, chief medical officer for North Mississippi Health Services, which has four facilities among the nine grant sites.

“We view it as a potential partnership,” Williams said. “We may be able to be a resource for them” with Tupelo-based specialists helping to provide coverage for the state.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com