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Rural Health: A Glimpse of the Future

HRSA grantee Jordan Berg demonstrates a digital viewer to FORHP's Jennifer Burgess (left) and Whitney Wiggins that might one day help  clinicians better treat patients remotely.
HRSA grantee Jordan Berg demonstrates a digital viewer to FORHP's Jennifer Burgess (left) and Whitney Wiggins that might one day help clinicians better treat patients remotely. HRSA's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) hosted a 3-day telehealth technology showcase at HRSA headquarters in October.

 

Five hundred and twenty-three of the 1,300-plus community health centers ... are using telehealth in some way, shape or fashion. And we think that's a great start. Obviously, we want to expand that ... But I think there's more interest in the health center world in doing more in telehealth, and I think that's true across HRSA.   ​

-- Tom Morris, Associate Administrator, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

 

At left, FORHP Associate Administrator Tom Morris. At right, HRSA Deputy Administrator Diana Espinoza quizzes grantees on the latest video conferencing technology
For the first 15 to 18 years of FORHP's telehealth program, Tom Morris noted, "the entire emphasis was on improving access to care." Now, the focus has shifted to "figuring out what else we can do with it." From diagnosing patients by closed-circuit TV in decades past, telehealth now encompasses digital transmission of patient records, x-rays, MRIs and real-time deep tissue and dental scans; training courses for clinicians in remote areas; and group therapy sessions enabled by counselors hundreds of miles away. At right, Deputy Administrator Diana Espinosa quizzes grantees on the latest video conferencing technology.

 

Clockwise from upper-left, Doris Barta leads the HRSA-funded National Telehealth Technology Assessment Center -- which tests new devices and platforms for possible use in health care settings; The Center's Garret Spargo demonstrates a digital stethoscope to Myriam Gerdine (BHW), Ann Ferrero (MCHB) and Nastassja Manzanero of FORHP's Office for the Advancement of Telehealth; Kathy Wibberly heads the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center at the University of Virginia
Clockwise from upper-left, Doris Barta leads the HRSA-funded National Telehealth Technology Assessment Center -- which tests new devices and platforms for possible use in health care settings; The Center's Garret Spargo demonstrates a digital stethoscope to Myriam Gerdine (BHW), Ann Ferrero (MCHB) and Nastassja Manzanero of FORHP's Office for the Advancement of Telehealth; Kathy Wibberly heads the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center at the University of Virginia -- one of 12 such regional centers nationwide supported by HRSA; FORHP Deputy Associate Administrator CDR Heather Dimeris welcomes conferees.

 

HRSA telehealth staff led by Bill England (center, with Telehealth Resource Center coordinator Natassja Manzanero) and grantees are expected to play a pivotal role in helping states and non-profits set up remote treatment systems for opioid misuse and other pressing rural health concerns in the coming months and years.
Go Team!  HRSA telehealth staff led by Bill England (center, with Telehealth Resource Center coordinator Natassja Manzanero) and grantees are expected to play a pivotal role in helping states and non-profits set up remote treatment systems for opioid misuse and other pressing rural health concerns in the coming months and years. Read more about HRSA's telehealth programs.

 

Bill England, Director of the FORHP Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, noted that the first telehealth program emerged at HRSA as early as 1988 - with funding for the first Telehealth Resource Centers made available in 2006.

"In 2016 was when we first sought to determine how widespread telehealth was in HRSA," he said.  "By end of 2017, we had identified more than 1,000 awards -– 68 programs across six bureaus.

"The support of our Administrator, Dr. George Sigounas, has really expanded the visibility and the incentives for telehealth throughout the agency. It's a wonderful opportunity, and we have continually emphasized that we have the Telehealth Resource Centers that can support these major initiatives throughout all of HRSA."

Health Centers have the largest number of awards, he added, while HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau has a greater variety – 25 different programs with 87 different telehealth awards.

Dr. Judy Steinberg noted that the number of health centers using telehealth has risen an additional six percent in the last year alone -- while 70 percent of workforce training awards across 17 programs in HRSA's Bureau of Health Workforce now include a telehealth component, reported the Bureau's Sean Smith.

Date Last Reviewed:  October 2018