USDA Awards $496,348 Grant to the Mercy Health System

Mercy Health System was recently awarded a $496,348.65 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) to support the purchase of equipment which will facilitate the delivery of telemedicine services from the Virtual Care Center (VCC) to the end user.

Mercy ACO Clinical Services, Inc’s (Mercy Virtual) Improved Access Project will bring creative and innovative technical and clinical resource strategies from Mercy’s Virtual Care Center (VCC) to bridge gaps in care coverage, comprehensive services, clinical knowledge, and physical distance to nine rural CAHs. Mercy Virtual will install the equipment necessary to hardwire 77 patient beds in the nine rural end-user CAHs, meeting patients where they are to get them the health care that they need via telemedicine. The ACO will allow for 24/7 connectivity and coordination with the VCC, a hub with 957 employees including specialists in multiple areas, data analytics to ensure the creation of a comprehensive and instantly accessible patient health history and profile, and monitoring capabilities. Bringing two-way audio-video telecommunications functionality through cameras and audio components to patient rooms will provide a consistent level of care to any location, providing the processes and services necessary to end hospital bypass, stop the high cost of transfers, and help create a culture within communities that once again engenders the confidence that “we can take care of our own.”

Rural residents need access to comprehensive and quality health care. However, in rural communities, there are barriers that stand in the way of providers’ ability to deliver the appropriate care to the right patient at the appropriate time. Residents in rural areas earn lower incomes, are older, are more geographically isolated, and are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. According to the CDC, rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than individuals living in urban communities.

Mercy Health is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and its reach extends to four Midwest states. Mercy is the sixth-largest Catholic health care system in the United States, with 30 acute care hospitals, 11 specialty hospitals, more than 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, and 44,000 medical staff and co-workers.