Rural Health Institute receives funds to expand telemedicine in rural Alabama

The University of Alabama's Rural Health Institute for Clinical and Translational Science has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program to expand telemedicine efforts in rural Alabama.

The Rural Health Institute was awarded $99,800 for one year and was one of 191 applications that competed for funding. The institute is part of UA's College of Community Health Sciences and conducts research to improve health in rural Alabama.

Through the grant, the Rural Health Institute will assist the College in increasing the availability of clinical telemedicine in rural areas in Alabama, especially in regard to psychiatry and obstetrical services. The project will also enable medical students and residents to learn more about the telemedicine and its application in rural areas, according to Dr. John C. Higginbotham, the Institute's director, who also serves as the College's associate dean for research and health policy.

The College provides tele-psychiatry services to rural mental health centers in West Alabama. Through a program with the West Alabama Mental Health Center in Demopolis, mental-health centers in that city and in five surrounding counties are directly linked to psychiatrists at University Medical Center, which the College operates.

The USDA grant will enable the College to purchase more cameras, monitors and other special digital equipment and add four more rural primary-care clinics to its telemedicine efforts, Higginbotham says. Those clinics are in Walker, Bibb, Pickens and Monroe counties.

The Walker County facility in Parrish, established in 2001 by faculty of The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, is a nurse-practitioner operated community health center where care is provided by nursing faculty and students. The Bibb County facility is currently used for training the College's Family Medicine resident physicians.

The other two sites in Pickens and Monroe counties are part of the College's Tuscaloosa Experience in Rural Medicine project, an undergraduate medical education program that provides clinical education to third- and fourth-year medical students through an extended 17-week clerkship in a rural setting.


College of Community Health Sciences

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