WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, together with U.S. Representative John Delaney (all D-Md.) today announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded a $62,000 federal grant to the Garrett County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) to fund a telehealth program that will improve the community’s access to specialty medical services. The new telehealth units will help connect seniors, kids and families in Western Maryland with quality specialized health care in their own communities.
“Your zip code should never determine the quality of health care available to you and your neighbors,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee. “Innovative grants like this lower the cost of cost of healthcare and shrink the distance between urban and rural. I am committed to supporting federal investments that leverage technology and cutting edge ideas to overcome some of the unique challenges facing Marylanders in rural areas.”
“This federal funding will save money, save time and save lives,” said Senator Mikulski, senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This telehealth program is an example of the innovative ways we can make healthcare more affordable and more accessible in our communities. Now patients with chronic illnesses can receive specialty treatment from doctors across the region without delay and without facing long, expensive commutes. I will continue to fight for federal funding that promotes innovations that create more affordable access to healthcare.”
“Many residents of Garrett County live far from a hospital and even further from a specialist, but that shouldn’t mean they don’t receive the care they deserve. Federal support for telehealth initiatives at Garrett County Memorial Hospital is welcome news for local residents. Connecting patients and providers with specialists across the region is a straightforward way that we can use modern technology to improve care, reduce costs, and serve patients more conveniently,” said Congressman Delaney.
Garrett County and the surrounding areas face high rates of chronic illness. The shortage of local specialty care services in rural areas like these can post serious challenges to high-need patients, such as those with stroke, high risk pregnancies or renal conditions. These patients may have little choice but to travel long distances for treatment or to forgo specialty care services altogether.
GCMH will use the funds to secure three mobile telehealth units combining high-definition video and audio communication with real time medical data. These units will link patients and providers at GCMH with specialty care providers at Western Maryland Health System, University of Maryland Medical Center and West Virginia University. Clinicians in these advanced medical centers will be able to provide diagnosis and consultation for patients at the Oakland facility, helping many patients receive needed care at lower cost and greater convenience. GCMH expects to serve at least 250 patients through the telehealth program within one year of deploying the system.
In addition to the ARC grant, GCMH is providing $62,000 in matching funds, bringing total funding for the project to $124,000.
ARC is a federal-state partnership that promotes economic development in 13 states throughout the Appalachian region. In 2014, Maryland received $4.7 million in ARC funding, including $1.8 million for 18 local projects and $2.9 million for access road construction.
Senators Mikulski and Cardin have been leading supporters of the ARC Commission in the U.S. Senate. In recognition of his support of regional economic development and the ARC, Senator Cardin received the 2012 Congressional Award from the Development District Association of Appalachia.
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