Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Health IT week by highlighting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to expand funding for advanced health care technology in rural America.
"Digital technology holds tremendous promise for the future of health care, and we must ensure that rural Americans have access to the latest in health technology," Vilsack said. "USDA has worked hard to expand digital tools and infrastructure for rural health providers, and as a result more communities are well-positioned to provide cutting edge health care."
USDA is partnering with HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs to leverage funds to support advanced health care technology in rural hospitals. This partnership is an extension of a successful pilot launched in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas to identify rural critical access hospitals in persistent poverty areas in need of advanced health care technology.
Rural Development programs provide funding for rural health IT infrastructure and expand local access to high quality health care services for rural Americans nationwide. These Rural Development programs include the Community Facilities loan and grant program, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program and the Rural Economic Development loan and grant program.
In conjunction with Health IT Week, Secretary Vilsack announced funding today for the following recipients to make technological upgrades and improve access to quality health care in rural areas. USDA funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
Ellinwood District Hospital -- $237,000 Community Facilities loan. Funds will be used to install a boiler system to improve the dependability and efficiency of the hospital's heating and cooling system.
Pinckneyville Community Hospital District -- $22,999,000 Community Facilities loan. Funds will be used to construct a replacement critical access hospital building.
Community Memorial Hospital Association -- $8,000,000 Community Facilities loan. Funds will be used to renovate the hospital in Staunton, Ill. The project will improve emergency services, centralize outpatient testing and services and improve patient registration.
Access Energy Cooperative -- $300,000 Rural Economic Development grant and $495,000 Rural Economic Development loan. Funds will be used to create a revolving loan fund that will provide a pass-through loan for the Henry County Health Center to purchase equipment for the surgical and outpatient departments. The project will create three jobs and help retain 300 existing jobs.
Mitchell County Hospital District -- $28,800 Community Facilities grant. Funds will be used to purchase a nurse call system. The system will be used to improve patient care for Mitchell County residents.
Kinney County -- $40,600 Community Facilities grant. Funds will be used to purchase an ambulance.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way -- strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions.
For more information about the objective of this initiative and the partnership between Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius, please follow this link describing the Iowa pilot, which was the first of five pilot projects that took place across five states: http://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog/local-implementation-support/creative-solutions-expand-iowas-rural-health-funding/