The Federal Communications Commission is looking to help Mississippi's largest hospital expand its telehealth program. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, the funds will also help other hospitals and clinics in the state reach more rural communities.
Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker joined Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr to announce the agency wants to provide up to $1 million to help expand telehealth in the state. Wicker invited Carr to visit the University of Mississippi Medical Center earlier this year to see how they provide healthcare to rural areas. Carr says the FCC wants to help expand remote monitoring services. He says they'll vote on the plan next month.
"We thought how could we at the Federal Communications Commission plug into this and support at a minimum the broad band connections that are necessary to make these remote patient monitoring projects work. So we'll be opening up applications for hospitals and projects that come to us," said Carr.
Friday Carr and Wicker visited Ruleville to talk to low-income patients who took part in a 2014 telehealth pilot project that remotely monitored diabetics. Each person received an Android tablet to keep track of their blood sugar levels and watched educational videos about the disease. Doctors treated them using two-way live communication. UMMC found 96 percent took their medicines and 83 percent kept their appointments. Senator Wicker says telehealth is critical for rural Mississippians.
"We are at the cutting edge of this type of medicine because we have to be, because we need to be in Mississippi," said Wicker.
Dr. Lou Ann Woodward is with the medical center. The pilot led to helping more people with a variety of disorders.
"There's so much more potential. So we are delighted and please to be a part of this today and excited about the future possibilities," said Woodward.
UMMC is one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence in the country. FCC's Brendan Carr says they will also help other states that want to replicate what Mississippi has achieved in providing telemedicine. A spokesperson for the FCC says they're confident the vote to fund telehealth projects will pass.