Federal grants totaling $262,000 will allow 11 small, rural Missouri hospitals to enhance data sharing and their telemedicine offerings through faster Internet service.
The grants, of up to $25,000 per facility, will be distributed through the state's MoBroadbandNow initiative.
The initiative's Rural Hospital Broadband Connection Grants help hospitals of 50 or fewer beds with last-mile connection and new or upgraded service to their main building, remote health clinics or to provide redundant encrypted service.
Missouri Southern Healthcare in Dexter, a 50-patient bed acute care hospital with six rural health clinics, for instance, will be able to boost its broadband speed of 1.5 Mbps to 10 Mbps, according to an announcement.
The other hospitals are:
- Advanced Healthcare Medical Center in Ellington, which will improve the broadband speed at its 25-patient bed critical-access hospital, six rural health clinics and one specialty clinic.
- Carroll County Memorial Hospital in Carrollton, a 25-patient bed critical access hospital with three rural health clinics, which will improve telemedicine services in geriatrics, psychiatry and dermatology as well as management of patient records and radiology imaging.
- Cedar County Memorial Hospital in El Dorado Springs, a critical-access hospital that will boost speeds for delivery of radiology imaging and patient records.
- John Fitzgibbon Memorial Hospital in Marshall, a community hospital with three rural health clinics and six specialty clinics, which will increase broadband speed to clinics in Slater and Brunswick.
- Madison Memorial Hospital in Fredericktown, a 25-patient bed critical-access hospital, which will use the grant to support telemedicine services and help the hospital partner with larger healthcare providers and networks.
- Northwest Medical Center in Albany, a critical-access hospital with four rural health clinics, which will use its grant to increase broadband speed to its clinics and to support disaster preparedness and emergency management for the area.
- Pemiscot Memorial Health Systems in Hayti, a 49-bed acute-care hospital with eight rural health clinics, which will boost speeds to support radiology imaging, patient record management and administration efficiency.
- Sac-Osage Hospital in Osceola, a non-profit hospital with two rural health clinics, which will increase broadband speed to its clinics.
- Sullivan County Memorial Hospital in Milan, a critical-access hospital with two rural health clinics, which will upgrade existing broadband speed to its clinics.
- Washington County Memorial Hospital in Potosi, a 25-patient bed critical-access hospital with two rural health clinics, which will provide a broadband connection to its Bonne Terre Clinic.
The grants will be distributed in seven installments between Dec. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2014.
The shortage of wireless connectivity that's powerful enough to handle large amounts of patient data has always been a challenge for hospitals in remote and rural areas. And though the Federal Communications Commission recently declared its pilot program to extend broadband networks to rural healthcare providers a success, the American Hospital Association has urged the FCC to simplify the application and reporting requirements for the program.
Missouri's answer to the administrative burden in applying was to set up MoBroadbandNow as a public-private partnership to improve Internet access statewide. The organization has aggressively competed for grants and has been successful in bringing in $261 million for 19 projects.