LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation has received a $1,022,334 grant to establish a telemedicine system for patients with acute and chronic conditions in 11 Kentucky counties. CHI Saint Joseph Health’s “Telehealth Solutions for Rural Kentucky” is one of four telemedicine projects funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Kentucky, the USDA announced Thursday.
The project will reach around 450,000 residents in 11 rural counties included in the project – Bell, Clark, Fleming, Knox, Laurel, Madison, Montgomery, Nelson, Pulaski, Taylor and Whitley – all of which will utilize telehealth for specialty care from physicians located at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington. Many rural counties are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care and lack of medical insurance.
“We know that Kentucky has poor health outcomes related to several chronic conditions,” said Leslie Buddeke Smart, CFRE, president, Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation. “In many rural counties, the health outcomes are much worse than the statewide average. This project will help us to improve access to higher levels of care for acute and chronic conditions than is available in those rural counties now.”
The funding Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation $869,644 in USDA grant funds and $152,690 in matching funds thanks to the generosity of donors to the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation – will be used for interactive monitors and mobile telehealth equipment that will connect five rural hospitals (Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown, Saint Joseph Berea, Saint Joseph London, Saint Joseph Mount Sterling and Taylor Regional Hospital in Campbellsville), 15 medical practices and two home health agencies with specialists located at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington through virtual consultations, case conferencing and education for acute and chronic conditions. In addition, follow-up care will be provided to patients through remote monitoring that will be implemented for around 2,500 patients in those rural counties.
“USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”
Funding for the USDA grant comes through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, which helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise.