HRSA awards $16 million to expand telehealth, other rural healthcare services

HRSA-HITNThe funding will be divided into four grant programs that will support 60 rural communities in 32 states, along with seven Rural Health Research Centers.

Rural healthcare is receiving a $16 million boost for telehealth and quality improvement activities from the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources & Services Administration, it was announced Thursday.

The funding will expand the use of telehealth technology for both veterans and other patients, while helping providers with policy-oriented research to better understand the needs and challenges facing rural communities.

"Rural and frontier communities face unique geographic barriers to obtaining comprehensive and convenient healthcare services," Jim Macrae, HRSA acting administrator, said in a statement of HRSA. "These grants are designed to help individuals and communities access the high-quality care they need to live healthier lives."

The $16 million will be divided into four programs administered by HRSA's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and support 60 rural communities within 32 states and seven Rural Health Research Centers.

The largest award of about $6.3 million will fund the Telehealth Network grant program. 21 community health organizations will each receive $300,000 annually for the next three years to bolster health information quality and encourages teleconnections to School Based Health Centers.

Seven Rural Health Research Centers grants totaling about $4.9 million will be awarded to each organization with $700,000 annually for four years for rural-focused health services research.

The Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement grants totaling about $4 million will support 21 organizations for a 3-year project designed to improve care quality for populations with high rates of chronic conditions. The project will also support rural primary care providers through quality improvement activities.

Three Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program with grants totaling $900,000 will bring mental health and other health services to veterans in rural communities through telehealth and health information technology. Each organization will receive $300,000 annually for up to three years.

"These grants encourage and support collaboration at the community level, expanding and strengthening the safety-net with networks of care in rural areas," said Tom Morris, HRSA's Associate Administrator for Rural Health Policy, in a statement. "Collaboration among different providers of health and social services within a community means shared resources, shared expertise and shared innovations."

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