LEBANON — Dartmouth-Hitchcock and its Center for Telehealth have been awarded two grants totaling nearly $1 million from the United States Department of Agriculture to deploy telemedicine equipment and services across 13 counties in rural New Hampshire and Vermont.
The $998,356 in grant money, awarded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service, were announced Tuesday by the USDA.
“This is great news for people in rural New Hampshire who have had to travel significant distances at great expense to get the medical care they need,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement Tuesday. “With these investments in telemedicine and broadband equipment, Dartmouth’s world-class care will be locally available and affordable for New Hampshire’s rural residents.”
Shaheen had pushed for approval the hospitals approval for the grants as a boost to economic growth and job creation.
In an announcement from Dartmouth-Hitchcock, USDA RD Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady said employers and employees might chose not to move to an area due to a lack of core services. These investments in rural communities take on the socio-economic barriers that can prevent rural communities from growing and prospering, Brady said.
“These grants will give some of the most rural communities in New Hampshire and Vermont access to world class healthcare usually only found in larger metropolitan areas,” Brady said. “Too often rural Americans are forced to travel long distances to access healthcare. In some cases, these distances prevent timely access to routine healthcare that can turn a minor problem into a life threatening problem.”
Dartmouth-Hitchcock said Tuesday that the first 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 second grant of $498,356 is to be used to purchase telemedical equipment for an additional eight sites in New Hampshire and 15 in Vermont.
The sites include rural acute care hospitals, ambulatory care sites, rehabilitation sites, and behavioral health centers in six New Hampshire counties — Cheshire, Coos, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Sullivan — and seven Vermont counties — Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor.
“Telemedicine is a critical piece of the sustainable health system Dartmouth-Hitchcock is working to create,” Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO and President Dr. James N. Weinstein, said in the announcement. “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.”