The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), has designated the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as the only two national Telehealth Centers of Excellence, the agency’s top award given only to programs at public academic medical centers.
As reported by Healthcare Informatics, Jackson, Mississippi-based UMMC has a history of creating sustainable telehealth models. For 14 years, the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been a national trailblazer in providing high-quality health care, especially for those with little access to both primary and specialty services.
The recognition from HRSA was announced during an Oct. 5 news conference in Washington. It includes an initial $600,000 in funding, with the opportunity for an additional $2 million over two years. 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.
The Center for Telehealth connects patients and caregivers to Medical Center health care providers remotely, in real time, using video calls and interactive tools. 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.
UMMC officials said 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. Michael Adcock, the Center for Telehealth’s executive director, 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.
Charleston-based MUSC also was awarded a $600,000 grant from the HRSA, and, as a national telehealth coordinating center, MUSC will continue to provide a range of telehealth services at more than 200 locations statewide.
“This is a phenomenal achievement,” Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and vice president for Health Affairs, said in a prepared statement. “This grant acknowledges the premier position that our telehealth team has established not only in South Carolina, but across the nation. It serves as another clear affirmation of our institution's commitment to fulfill our vision – to lead health innovation for the lives we touch.”
As a founding member of the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance (SCTA), MUSC is uniquely qualified to lead these efforts. South Carolina is a state with largely rural areas and high rates of chronic disease among a particularly impoverished and medically underserved population. The South Carolina legislature has supported expanding telehealth across the state through the SCTA.
“This is one of the first of its kind HRSA grants with only two awarded in the entire country,” Shawn Valenta, MUSC Center of Telehealth director, said. “Grant funds will allow the MUSC telehealth team to leverage the unique qualities intrinsic to our academic medical center and extend this mission nationally to accelerate the dissemination of best practices to achieve effective and efficient care.”