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February 9, 2018

MaineHealth awarded $274K grant to improve rural telehealth network

About MaineHealth

MaineHealth member organizations include Maine Medical Center, Coastal Healthcare Alliance (which includes Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital), Franklin Community Health Network, LincolnHealth, Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Memorial Hospital, Southern Maine Health Care, Western Maine Health, MaineHealth Care at Home, and NorDx; the MaineHealth Accountable Care Organization is also part of the MaineHealth family. Affiliates of MaineHealth include MaineGeneral Health, Mid Coast-Parkview Health, New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland and St. Mary's Health System.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $274,092 grant to MaineHealth to enhance its telehealth capabilities in rural areas.

The three-year project, awarded through the USDA's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, will focus on three telehealth initiatives:

  • Enhanced communications between emergency departments and local emergency medical services in rural areas
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Units/Nursery Care Support
  • Transfer decision support for post-discharge care to the home.

"We are pleased to continue to build on our telehealth framework with these three important initiatives that serve rural communities across our service area," MaineHealth Chief Medical Officer Joan Boomsma said in a news release. "Telehealth leverages MaineHealth's investment in shared electronic health record technology to facilitate information flow across our health system."

How the grant will be used

MaineHealth will establish telehealth workstation "hubs" at six member and affiliate hospital emergency departments and deploy tablets and other components to local EMS services, facilitating communication between ambulances and emergency departments. This will enable time-sensitive information about patient status and condition to be shared en route to the hospital, supporting critical pre-arrival preparation.

The second component leverages telehealth tools to support transfer decision-making and care plan confirmation between five remote MaineHealth member and affiliate hospital NICU/nurseries and neonatology specialists.

"By facilitating telehealth consultations between local care teams and specialists, we can extend scarce resources of pediatric specialists to our most at-risk and rural populations," Boomsma added.

In the third component of the project, MaineHealth Care at Home will deploy tablets, smart phones, associated software and peripheral devices, augmented with home health services, to support post-discharge care of NICU infants from participating hospitals and elders referred from hospitals and physician groups in the service area of western and midcoast Maine. MaineHealth Care at Home physicians and medical specialists will also participate in video consultations and virtual rounding.

Together, these three components build on MaineHealth's existing telehealth platform, operations and processes with the goal of expanding access to care, improving quality outcomes, and reducing avoidable hospitalizations among rural Maine's most vulnerable populations.

Participating MaineHealth hospitals

The EMS services hubs participating in the grant initiative are:

  • Memorial Hospital, North Conway, N.H.
  • Franklin Memorial Hospital, Farmington
  • Stephens Memorial Hospital, Norway
  • Miles Memorial Hospital, Damariscotta
  • MaineGeneral, Augusta
  • MaineGeneral, Waterville.

The NICU/Nursery Care Support and transfer decision support partners include: Maine Medical Center in Portland; Memorial Hospital; Franklin Memorial Hospital; Stephens Memorial Hospital; Miles Memorial Hospital and MaineGeneral in Augusta.

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