According to HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration – which provided the grant – telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.
The grant, which will be administered in four annual payments of approximately $250,000, was awarded to the Rural Northwest Washington and Southeast Alaska Telehealth Network. The Northwest Washington sites participating in the network include: San Juan County Public Hospital District #1 (doing business as InterIsland Medical Center and San Juan Island EMS); PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center; PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center being built on San Juan Island; and United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley. The Southeast Alaska network sites are PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center and the Prince of Wales clinic in Craig, Alaska.
The primary purpose and mission of the Network is to build a strong and sustainable network of health care organizations collaborating through telehealth technology to improve access, strengthen service delivery and quality to rural remote areas of the Pacific NW and southeast Alaska.
Beth Williams Gieger, administrator for InterIsland Medical Center on San Juan Island, has experience with reaching out to the under-served. She was project manager for the San Juan County Telepsychiatry Project Grant for four years beginning in 2007.
“With no practicing psychiatrists in San Juan County, it meant that 200 residents – ranging from age five to 85 – had to travel to the mainland for psychiatric services,” said Williams Gieger. “The telepsychiatry project received high praise from those who participated.
“I am grateful our District was awarded this rural telemedicine network grant in partnership with PeaceHealth, as it will allow us to continue to provide psychiatry consults as well as other quality specialty care not available in San Juan County,” Williams Gieger said.
Williams Gieger, superintendent for the San Juan County Public Hospital District #1, will be the administrator of the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP) award. The TNGP is a competitive grant program that funds projects that demonstrate the use of telehealth networks to improve health care services for medically underserved populations in urban, rural, and frontier communities. This grant will provide access to services not available, saving time and money for patients and for the specialists who will provide needed care without the cost of travel.