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Telehealth awards to help California organizations reach remote, at-risk populations

Fifteen community organizations across California are receiving more than $5 million in funding to improve telehealth access to some of the state’s most underserved populations, with a goal of improving access to healthcare and reducing costs.

The Broadband Adoption Model eHealth Communities Awards, announced on August 18, are being issued through the University of California-Davis Health System and the California Telehealth Network. The groups receiving the awards were chosen through a strict selection process that included an emphasis on providing care to medically underserved regions, older adults, at-risk people and children.

“We are excited to partner with these model communities as they develop and implement innovations in telecommunications that will help our state respond to complex and highly challenging health issues," said Jana Katz-Bell, assistant dean for interprofessional programs at the UC Davis School of Medicine and director of the new eHealth project at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing in Sacramento, in a press release. "These 15 community groups will pioneer new approaches in healthcare that will create pathways for others to follow and help our state advance health for all.”

Telehealth offers the ability to deliver needed healthcare services to remote locations, as well as to people with chronic conditions and those who can’t easily visit a hospital or physician, thus reducing expensive trips to the emergency room. It’s also being championed by providers and payers as an avenue to preventive health and wellness, allowing them to help targeted populations maintain their health and avoid complications.

“This grant could not be more timely,” said Sajid Ahmed, director of health IT and innovation at the L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation's largest public health plan, serving more than 900,000 Los Angeles County residents through free or low-cost health insurance programs. “The much-needed equipment that we'll receive will assist L.A. Care's Safety Net eConsult Program and support nine partner organizations to promote and enable coordinated care.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, with matching funds from the California HealthCare Foundation, the National Coalition for Health Integration, the University of California and United Healthcare, the awards average $300,000, along with $50,000 to hire eHealth trainers/project managers to guide each program.

“This award brings tremendous benefits for a hospital like ours," said Wanda Grove, administrator for Surprise Valley Community Hospital in remote northeastern California, considered the smallest hospital in the state. “It will enable us to expand and enhance our existing technologies in ways that complement everything from electronic medical records to distance learning.”

“Without good and secure telemedicine connections, residents here have to travel a minimum of 3.5 hours to be seen by a specialist,” added Grove, whose hospital will receive its telehealth equipment through the Connecting to Care nonprofit. “If others can learn from our eHealth efforts here in Cedarville, then this award will benefit not only local resident but people around the state.”

The award winners, spanning 26 counties throughout the state, represent a broad spectrum of organizations, including rural and urban clinics, hospitals, libraries, public health departments, mental health agencies, colleges and universities, senior and low-income housing programs and Indian Health programs. The money will be used for technology that will foster such projects as remote specialty and critical care consultations, telemedicine health management, consumer health education, continuing education and healthcare workforce development.

“The Model Communities will help demonstrate what technology-enabled healthcare delivery is all about,” said Eric Brown, president and CEO of the Sacramento-based California Telehealth Network. “CTN provides the secure digital highway that will leverage these new medical technologies, allowing activities like video consultations and health information exchange to occur over secure broadband connections.”

The award winners are:

• The Alameda County Health Services Agency, serving Alameda County;
• Access El Dorado (ACCEL), serving El Dorado County
• The California Rural Indian Health Board, comprised of rural Indian health clinics throughout the state;
• The College of the Siskiyous’ Siskiyou eHealth Collaborative, serving Siskiyou, Lassen and Shasta counties;
• The Community Hospital of San Bernardino, serving San Bernardino County;
• Connecting to Care, serving Modoc County;
• Connecting to Care’s Sierra-Nevada Model eHealth Cancer Community, serving Sierra, Nevada and Plumas counties;
• The Center for Technology Innovation & Wellbeing’s Model eHealth Community for the Aging – Southern California, serving Los Angeles;
• The L.A. Care Health Plan, serving Los Angeles;
• The North Coast Clinics Network, serving Humboldt County;
• Plumas District Hospital, serving Plumas County;
• Redwood MedNet – North Coast, serving Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties;
• The Southern Sierra Telehealth Network Community, serving Inyo, Kern and Mono counties;
• UC San Francisco, serving San Francisco; and
• The Venice Family Clinic, serving Los Angeles.

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