How a grant can improve care delivery and health education at all levels
In 2020, the Federal Communication Commission’s Telehealth Grants Program awarded Decatur County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, Indiana $698,603 for remote patient monitoring equipment, a patient telehealth platform, network upgrades, tablets and mobile hotspots.
The goal was for the hospital to offer a variety of telehealth options, including remote patient visits to reach a wide range of patients; rehabilitation assessments using telehealth for physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy; behavioral health services for seniors in individual and group sessions; and continued remote monitoring of patients stable enough to be cared for at home but showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
Accessible health care and health education
The hospital serves Decatur County (population 26,584) and surrounding communities. As a rural hospital, providing accessible health care and health education to the community has been a priority for many years, certainly long before the pandemic hit in 2020.
“The challenges were many, but the lack of rural broadband specifically hampered telemedicine initiatives and generally had a negative impact on the community in terms of access to information and e-learning. “said Annie Swinney, RN, staff development coordinator at Decatur County Memorial. Hospital.
“Additionally, the aging internal infrastructure has made using new technologies – such as monitoring critically ill patients – a challenge.”
The FCC grant had far-reaching significance far beyond the hospital, said Decatur County Memorial Hospital CEO Rex McKinney.
“Network upgrades to our infrastructure have not only enabled our community to access medical care via the internet and telehealth, but have also provided benefits for online learning opportunities,” he said. note. “Our physicians and community have been very receptive to using technology to improve access to care.
“As the only hospital in Indiana to be named by the Chartis Center for Rural Health as one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals and ranked among the top 10% hospitals nationwide, the use of ‘Leading technology is imperative for our organization to best serve our patients and the community,’ he added.
Improving the safety and efficiency of care
The large proposal encompassed several small projects that the hospital was to fund with the grant. Taken together, these projects have enabled the facility to use technology in innovative ways to improve the safety and efficiency of care delivery throughout the pandemic and beyond. The projects have also allowed the hospital to use its staff resources in new ways to meet the health and wellness needs of the community.
“The telehealth grant has enabled Decatur County Memorial Hospital to implement many initiatives that have improved the care received by inpatients and outpatients, while benefiting the community as a whole,” Swinney said. More specifically, she stated:
- The hospital worked with a provider to bring broadband access to the town of Westport. This gave patients there the ability to have the internet for a variety of uses, including e-learning and telehealth visits.
- He updated his building’s wireless infrastructure to enable improved monitoring and notifications throughout the building, improving access to life-saving patient safety programs.
- The hospital has implemented a Masimo monitoring system in all patient care areas, allowing staff to have continuous monitoring of essential vital signs and to track these vital signs from a central monitoring station to improve the delivery of care. This system also pushes data into the electronic health record, improving staff efficiency and enabling them to improve care delivery.
- It purchased devices and platforms for telehealth visits, ensuring HIPAA compliance and improving providers’ abilities to communicate via telemedicine.
- And the hospital purchased a platform to improve healthcare support for schools and businesses with equipment that enables virtual ear, throat exams and auscultation of lung and heart sounds.
Benefits all around
“These implementations have been used at all levels,” Swinney explained. “Nurses and providers have benefited from using the Masimo monitoring system. The telehealth capabilities have benefited patients in rural areas, as well as providers and physician assistants in primary care and immediate care settings.
“The infrastructure updates have benefited care providers in obvious ways, but the improvements also increase the ability of support staff to assist care providers efficiently and quickly,” she concluded.
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