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Published on March 06, 2014

USDA, ARC select UMMC for telehealth grant to serve Appalachian counties

JACKSON, Miss. – The United States Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission have selected the University of Mississippi Medical Center for a three-year, $578,360 distance-learning and telemedicine service grant, “Telemedicine Emergency and Specialty Care for Appalachia in North Mississippi (TESCAN).”

The USDA will fund $378,360 with a $200,000 match from ARC.

The sites, considered “medically underserved areas” and “health-professional-shortage areas” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, include:

    • Calhoun County Medical Clinic, Calhoun City;
    • Trace Regional Hospital, Houston;
    • *Itawamba County Hospital, Fulton;
    • Kemper County Medical Center, De Kalb;
    • Tishomingo Health Services, Inc., Iuka;
    • Webster General Hospital, Eupora;
    • Yalobusha General Hospital, Water Valley;
    • North Mississippi Medical Center-Pontotoc, Pontotoc;
    • Kilmichael Hospital, Kilmichael; and
    • Holmes County Hospital, Lexington.


Representatives from the USDA and UMMC announced the grant agreement at a joint press conference March 6 at the UBS Building in Jackson.

Dr. Kristi Henderson, left, UMMC director of Telehealth and chief advanced practice officer, and Trina George, right, Mississippi state USDA director of rural development, demonstrate a telehealth system.
Dr. Kristi Henderson, left, UMMC director of Telehealth and chief advanced practice officer, and Trina George, right, Mississippi state USDA director of rural development, demonstrate a telehealth system.

The grant will expand the number of health-care delivery sites throughout the state linked to the Medical Center by the state-of-the-art telemedicine network to 104.

According to Dr. Kristi Henderson, chief advanced practice officer and director of the Center for Telehealth at UMMC, the TESCAN grant will provide the capital equipment necessary for the Medical Center’s Telehealth Program to serve 10 additional sites, including nine Appalachian counties and one Mississippi Delta county.

“Thanks to the USDA and ARC, this program will expand UMMC’s proven Telehealth Program to an additional 10 rural hospitals in the Appalachian areas of Mississippi,” Henderson said. “Emergency and specialty health-care providers will now be accessible in these rural communities, which will save lives and improve Mississippians’ health.

“This program is a great example of how partnerships between hospitals can extend world-class health care to all Mississippians using innovative solutions.”

The agreement will augment the services delivered by existing medical providers in the rural areas by connecting them with the state’s only academic medical center and trauma center. The grant will position UMMC as a “hub site” for each of the county-based hospitals, ultimately reaching 168,862 additional rural residents.

The Medical Center has been providing emergency and specialty-care consult services via telemedicine to community hospitals throughout Mississippi since 2003.

Trina George, left, Mississippi state USDA director of rural development, and Dr. Kristi Henderson, UMMC director of Telehealth and chief advanced practice officer, discuss how the new projects will improve access to care in the state.
Trina George, left, Mississippi state USDA director of rural development, and Dr. Kristi Henderson, UMMC director of Telehealth and chief advanced practice officer, discuss how the new projects will improve access to care in the state.

“This project provides rural residents with access to better health-care options without the financial hardships,” said Trina George, Mississippi state director of USDA rural development. “The level of health care you receive should not be based on where you live or your economic status.

“We must continue to make investments to connect our rural residents to technology that will help them live a healthier lifestyle.”

George said providing rural residents with access to specialty care through telemedicine will “greatly improve” local health outcomes while decreasing the cost of care and the financial burdens placed on families.

The TESCAN grant is being provided through the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program, which provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance.

Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.

*Itawamba County Hospital is no longer operating. Because of a clerical error, it was included in a list of sites that meet the eligibility requirements for this grant.

UMMC is working with the USDA and the Appalachian Regional Commission on selecting a new site, preferably in the same county due to its classification as an area lacking adequate health care services. The funds set aside for Itawamba County Hospital will be reassigned to that hospital or clinic. To date, no money from this grant has been spent.