Johnson County Community Hospital | News Article

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

USDA RD grant to help create ICU telemedicine network between JCMC and rural hospitals
From left: John Abe Teague, Charlie Sagona, Bobby Goode, Penni Kyte, Dr. Ken Wright, Morgan May, Mary Short, Alison Johnson.

USDA RD grant to help create ICU telemedicine network between JCMC and rural hospitals

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Thanks to a $133,569 USDA Rural Development grant, Mountain States will establish a telemedicine network connecting ICU doctors at JCMC with the system's six rural hospitals.

Mountain States already practices telemedicine for pediatrics, the ER and psychiatrics, using telemedicine carts to provide a high-quality, live video and audio link between a provider at one facility and a patient and provider at another facility. This grant, specifically for the intensive care unit, will allow Mountain States to increase its supply of telemedicine carts to include ICU use.

Specialists at JCMC will now be able to do real-time consultations with patients and caregivers in the ICU at Mountain States’ rural community hospitals – Unicoi County, Johnson County, Dickenson, Norton, Russell County and Smyth County. Many patients in the rural towns do not have cars or disposable income to spend on gas, meals or lodging to come to JCMC for care, so telemedicine will bring the care to them. It is estimated that this will serve about 5,000 patients per year.

“This grant will improve our ability to collaborate with specialist physicians in Niswonger Children’s Hospital and broaden the expertise available to pediatric patients in all Mountain States hospitals,” said Dr. Ken Wright, VP/chief medical officer for Mountain States Southeast Market, which includes Johnson County and Unicoi County. “This is one of the first steps in our journey to build a virtual hospital for our region.

“Telemedicine brings unparalleled access for rural patients to specialists that would otherwise be unavailable. It will allow our Niswonger physicians to literally see and examine patients using the same tools they use on all of their patients, like stethoscopes, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes.”

The grant is a one of the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) projects. Representatives from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Rural Development office in Tennessee recently visited JCMC to help promote the grant and to learn more about how Mountain States will use the money.

“Funding DLT projects is important because the program ensures rural residents access to modern, 21st Century communication technologies,” said Bobby Goode, USDA Rural Development director for Tennessee. “Additionally, the program helps rural communities to compete in a global economy.

“The patients served by these rural hospitals can have difficulty accessing care due to the distance of travel. Being able to access these services will improve patient care and save patients considerable travel by bringing care to them.”

Participating in the USDA RD visit were John Abe Teague, the district director for the office of U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee; USDA RD Greeneville Area office director Mary Short; and from Mountain States, JCMC’s VP/chief nursing officer Morgan May; Penni Kyte, director, enterprise program management; corporate manager for grants and awards Charlie Sagona; and JCMC’s director of critical care, Alison Johnson.