Rural medicine is facing a crisis! Declining populations, a high percentage of uninsured persons, the lack of physicians, and huge travel times for both patients and their doctors all make it harder for residents of rural areas to obtain the medical care they need. One study found that elderly cancer survivors who lived in rural areas were 66% more likely to skip medical care than those in more urban settings, even though both groups had health insurance. It is speculated the hardships and expenses related to travel may be one reason why. Can telemedicine offer solutions to this dilemma? One objective of the Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program to increase rural residents access to healthcare via technology, along with funding general distance learning opportunities as well.
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program
This purpose of this program is to help make education, training and telemedicine more available to rural residents. Funds may be used for:
- Purchasing or leasing eligible equipment such as:
- Computer hardware and software;
- Audio and video equipment;
- Computer Network Components;
- Telecommunications terminal equipment;
- Data Terminal Equipment;
- Inside Wiring.
2. Acquiring instructional programing that is a capital asset.
3. Providing technical assistance and instruction for using equipment.
Selected Previous Recipients
- The Eastern Aleutian Tribes, Inc. for the building of an interactive tele-psychiatry network that will include six schools and one children's home.
- Marietta Memorial Hospital (OH) for the creation of the first telemedicine system in southeastern Ohio to connect residents with medical experts and substance abuse providers from other parts of the country.
- The Karuk Tribe for the delivery of specialty, primary and behavioral health care services from hub sites in Sacramento and Redding to outlying areas.
- West Georgia Technical College for providing health science distance learning, including GED classes, health science coursework, tutoring, virtual field trips, and health care career exploration.
- Arctic Slope Native Association Ltd. for the purchase of a tele-pharmacy so residents to not have to wait for medication to be flown into local clinics.
- Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (GA) for the establishment of a distance learning network between the college and remote hospitals so students can access Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs while remaining in their communities.
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma for the enhancement of Choctaw languages classes through Holbvt toba Aianumpuli (Talking TV) which will reach ten additional school districts.
- North Carolina Central University for the acquisition of video conferencing equipment for libraries and church centers so rural residents can do basic research on legal issues.
Applying for the DLT Program
Eligible applicants are Native American tribes, state and local governments, schools/school districts, academic institutions, nonprofits, and consortia. Applicants must either operate a rural facility, or deliver distance learning or telemedicine services to entities that operate a rural community facility or to residents of rural areas. Project hubs do not have to be located in rural areas just as long as the end-user sites are.