A new grant will help North Carolina explore how to better use technology to improve health in western North Carolina.
The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) and the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Rural Health (ORH), combined efforts to win a $98,273 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER fund to investigate existing resources to implement telehealth infrastructure in 20 western counties in North Carolina.
“We can use technology to help people lead healthier lives, and this grant will help us bring that possibility to more people in North Carolina,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
Gov. Cooper currently serves as co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which includes North Carolina and 12 other states.
The two departments will partner with local and state organizations to conduct a 12-month study of opportunities, challenges and gaps for broadband and health care infrastructure in the ARC region in hopes of providing the telehealth infrastructure it needs. The POWER fund also allows for studying programs that address health disparities within these 20 counties:
“Our Broadband Infrastructure Office is proud to partner with DHHS and its Office of Rural Health on a project as important to North Carolina as this,” said Eric Boyette, NCDIT secretary and state chief information officer. “The ARC has recognized how important this is and we appreciate the support of the POWER fund grant.”
Some of North Carolina’s physicians and health care organizations already use telehealth services to augment or replace in-person care. However, more than 250,000 households in North Carolina, including many within the Appalachian Region, cannot access these services because they lack broadband infrastructure and the technology and tools to use it.
“Health happens outside the four walls of a hospital or a doctor’s office, and health care providers in North Carolina need greater access to use telemedicine to treat their patients,” said DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy K. Cohen. “Increasing access to care for North Carolinians will help them live healthier, more productive lives.”
Telehealth services are rapidly evolving and progressing. Today, a physician can provide emergency care or behavioral health services to a patient via video conference, monitor a patient’s blood pressure or medication adherence remotely or provide consultation to another physician on a difficult or rarely seen condition. Telehealth services can bridge health care disparities and healthcare professional shortages, reduce the burden of extensive travel to healthcare sites and provide affordable access to world-class care for citizens in areas with limited health care options.
To design a telehealth strategy, a better understanding of the existing broadband and telehealth assets is needed to implement strategic, feasible and useful telehealth solutions. Likewise, an understanding of the gaps in telehealth and broadband is essential to leverage the economic and societal opportunities telehealth services promise. This feasibility study will inform the design and implementation of a statewide telehealth strategy under development by BIO and ORH.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.