USDA offers $128M for rural telemedicine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that it will offer an additional $128 million for a mix of telemedicine grant and loan funding for rural healthcare organizations, along with support for distance learning. To date, the USDA has invested more than $166 million in its Distance Learning and Telemedicine program over the past five years, serving 2,226 healthcare organizations. Most of the funding comes in the form of comparatively modest sums, including, for example, a $248,000 grant which is helping residents of Illwaco, WA-based Ocean Beach Hospital set up a tele-radiology network with providers in neighboring rural counties. The primary idea behind the program is to increase rural access to hard-to-find specialists. Most of the funding isn't a gift, however. The program includes $62.9 million for loans, $50 million for mixed loan/grant applications and only $15 million for pure grants.

To get more background on the USDA program:
- read this Healthcare IT News item
- review the USDA's overview of the program