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WASHINGTON D.C. — The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has recognized the University of Mississippi Medical Center as a Telehealth Center of Excellence on Thursday.
In addition to prestige the award carries with it a potential $2.6 million in funding, paid out over the next two years.
“The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s successful program is already a model for national telehealth expansion,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “As a Center of Excellence, UMMC will be able to demonstrate to a broader audience how to use telehealth to increase patient access to care and decrease costs.
“Mississippians can be proud that our state’s telehealth investments have set a high standard for improving health care everywhere.”
The designation allows UMMC’s Center for Telehealth to serve as a national clearinghouse for telehealth research and resources, including technical assistance to other telehealth providers.
In a state that consistently ranks near the bottom in most health indicators, Mississippi’s telehealth programs have been rare bright spots. In 2015, the American Telemedicine Association ranked the state’s program among the seven best in the country.
For the past 14 years, the seat of much of that innovation has been the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which pioneered telemedicine in the state. More than 500,000 patient visits in 69 of the state’s 82 counties have been recorded since the center began with just three sites, expanding to more than 200 sites today, not including the homes of patients.
“(The designation) sets us apart. We were selected because we have one of the most comprehensive telehealth programs in the country,” said Michael Adcock, executive director of the Center for Telehealth.
Adcock said the designation allows the center to focus on four work areas: assessing the impact of telehealth on health care spending; creating new and/or refining payment methods; improving physician and patient awareness; and expanding its overall research portfolio.
The Center for Telehealth provides remote, on-site access to caregivers in more than 35 specialties, including urgent care, trauma, mental health, dermatology, cardiology, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Pediatric telehealth specialties include remote concussion evaluation, cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, genetics and urology.
Telehealth nurse practitioners are stationed in the emergency departments of 17 rural Mississippi hospitals to treat patients via a multidisciplinary team that includes a certified emergency medicine physician on the UMMC campus
The agency’s top award goes only to programs at public academic medical centers.
“UMMC’s selection as a national Telehealth Center of Excellence is affirmation of our mission and responsibility to bring high-quality health care to all Mississippians, especially those in rural, underserved areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center.