Under Secretary for Rural Development, Dallas Tonsager announced late last week funding awards to improve access to education and health care in rural areas. The grants, administered by USDA Rural Development through its Rural Utility Services, will help fund 100 distant learning and telemedicine projects, including six in North Carolina. “This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen.”
Four of the six grants were announced for eastern North Carolina on Dec. 8 at James Sprunt Community College. Among them, Sampson Regional Medical Center (SRMC) was presented $169,852. The grant funds awarded to Sampson Regional will be used to purchase new patient monitors that have the capability of sending test results and vital signs in real time to specialists at four tertiary hospitals (UNC-Chapel Hill, WakeMed, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, and Cape Fear Valley). The ability for consulting physicians at tertiary facilities to see patient monitor images from Sampson Regional will allow the hospital to provide even greater patient care and reduce unnecessary patient transfers, while helping to reduce possible overcrowding at the tertiary facilities.
In rural Sampson County, this grant will allow Sampson Regional Medical Center (SRMC) to move forward with improvements to patient care. The hospital plans to begin the monitor project by installing new monitors in the areas where the most critical care is required—the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit. “The plan for implementation has already started with the technical piece,” said Becky Willis, chief nursing officer at Sampson Regional Medical Center. “Engineers are working on cable pulling plans and the electrical requirements. Timelines for specific unit education and installation will be nailed down in January.” By the end of September 2012, Sampson Regional plans for the monitors to be fully implemented in the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Pediatrics, OB Nursery, Post Anesthesia Care Unit, Ambulatory Surgical Unit, and the Medical-Surgical Unit.
According to SRMC’s Foundation Director, Brenda Warren, the grant will allow the hospital to speed up the budget timeline in purchasing the newer patient monitors, particularly in the Emergency Department and ICU. “The grant is crucial to help SRMC stay in the forefront of telemedicine opportunities as we partner with specialists at regional tertiary hospitals,” said Warren. Because the patient monitors will allow the immediate electronic transfer of health information and vital signs, joint decisions can be made regarding diagnosis, treatment, and transfer of patients. “We are so grateful for this funding as we strive to provide the best quality care for our patients and keep them close to home,” Warren expressed.
The monitor system SRMC plans to purchase offers many clinical capabilities, including immediate connectivity at the bedside that brings the user in touch with patient data streams , such as electronic medical records, without compromising patient monitoring. The monitors also allow remote internet access so physicians outside of the hospital can view streaming patient data, see exactly what the SRMC’s physicians see, and consult with them electronically.