Delta Democrat Times (Greenville, MS)
Delta Health System Receives USDA Rural Development Telemedicine Grant Award
On Tue, 03/09/2021 - 4:55 PM
Scott Christensen, Delta Health System Chief Executive Officer, announced that Delta Health System has been awarded a federal grant through USDA Rural Development. The $995,958.00 grant, the largest in the hospital’s nearly 70-year history, will support 15 sites in rural Washington, Issaquena, Humphreys, and Sharkey counties. The target counties are home to over 57,600 residents and is projected to connect at least 10,000 rural residents to clinical providers.
“On behalf of Delta Health System, I would like to thank Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker and Congressman Bennie Thompson for their support in obtaining this essential award to serve the citizens of the Mississippi Delta. Telemedicine has become a vital instrument in serving our patients, especially during the pandemic, and we have seen an increase of interest by both providers and patients. This is the future of medicine,” said Christensen. “The Mississippi Delta region historically has ranked the highest in the nation in diabetes, heart disease, low-rate births and other chronic disease. Also, a high percentage of the residents live in poverty and do not have access to healthcare providers and services. The telemedicine initiative will change the trajectory of healthcare in small rural communities for generations to come.”
Telemedicine site hubs will be placed in Delta Health System facilities located in Greenville and Arcola and 15 patient sites will be established in locations throughout the four counties. The patient sites include K-12 schools in the Greenville, Leland, and Hollandale school districts; A&A Pharmacies in Belzoni and Leland; Stop N Shop grocery stores in Rolling Fork and Hollandale; Knu Contract Furniture worksite located in Leland; Issaquena County Correctional Facility; Delta Research Extension Center in Stoneville; and Legacy Manor Nursing and Rehab Center in Greenville.
“Improving healthcare access to our most rural areas is a key strategy for our organization,” said Howard Sanders, Delta Health System Board Trustee. “Thanks to USDA Rural Development and this substantial grant award, we will be able to close the healthcare access gap in several communities throughout the Delta. Our goal as a Board is to find opportunities to lead and support the region in quality, affordable healthcare, and this telemedicine expansion will do just that.”
“As superintendent of Greenville Public School District, it is such a great feeling when we are able to collaborate and create a partnership within our local community. To say the least, I am very excited about the new collaboration and other opportunities with Delta Health System through the USDA Telehealth grant. One of the many great takeaways is how this partnership will help make our school system, students, staff, parents, and the community better. Being that Delta Health System is right here in our community, it is critical that our school district collaborate and foster more beneficial community partnerships such as this one moving forward, said Dr. Debra Dace, Greenville Public School Superintendent.”
Telemedicine project goals include: improving access to healthcare for rural residents; reducing employer costs resulting from sick days and time missed at work due to medical appointments; reducing student absenteeism due to healthcare issues; reducing healthcare and travel costs as well as safety risks incurred by law enforcement by connecting incarcerated individuals to on-site telemedicine; reducing mortality, hospital readmissions and preventable emergency room visits; providing chronic disease management; and reducing drug and alcohol deaths by providing behavioral health medicine.
“At A&A Pharmacy, our goal is to make life easier for our customers. Along with our free delivery and dose packaging medications, telehealth will be another major benefit to those in these rural areas that prefer the convenient access of our locations or that may have difficulty getting to specialists in another town.
By partnering with Delta Health System, the local doctors and nurse practitioners, this exciting telehealth project will provide access to local partnering specialty doctors using private booths within our Leland and Belzoni pharmacies. Many of our customers have limited access to transportation or may not have the time to travel out of town. Thank you to Delta Health System for progressive thinking and bringing technology and innovation to our hometown communities in Leland and Belzoni,” said Robert Stokes, Co-owner A&A Pharmacies.
The USDA Rural Development grant provides the funding to purchase the delivery system, which includes technology and equipment for all the 15 locations. This includes cameras, microphones, and video platforms so providers and patients can connect for real time telehealth visits. Implementation of the telemedicine project will launch this Summer with final installations in early 2022.
“The telemedicine award will allow our team easier access to premier family medicine as well as specialty healthcare on our worksite. Delta Health System continues to implement services that provide for healthier employees and communities and I am looking forward to working with their team to move towards a healthier and more productive Mississippi,” said Dr. Steve Martin, Associate Director and Interim Head Delta Research Extension Service.