Mercy recently received $ 647,154 from the Federal Communications Commission’s Covid-19 telehealth program to purchase remote communications technology for its Arkansas hospitals.
The funding will allow Mercy to expand its telehealth services for patients with covid and critical care while protecting caregivers and using resources efficiently, said David Kinkle, executive director of business operations for the virtual care center of Mercy.
The money will be used to purchase devices such as wall systems inside covid-19 units; mobile telehealth carts; iPads; webcams; and command center technology upgrades, according to Mercy spokesperson Mardi Taylor.
It will benefit all Mercy sites in Arkansas, including Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas, as well as rural sites in Berryville, Booneville, Ozark, Paris and Waldron, she said.
The FCC’s covid-19 telehealth program provides reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services and connected devices to enable telehealth during the pandemic, according to a press release from the commission. The second round is a $ 249.9 million federal initiative that builds on the $ 200 million program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The wall system inside the hospital’s covid units will include a monitor, camera, speakers and microphone that will allow staff to contact an offsite caregiver and initiate a video call between the care team remote and the patient, Taylor said. The device does not require interaction from bedside staff inside a room or the patients themselves to conduct a video session, allowing a remote caregiver to fully assess a patient without staff exposure or expenditure on personal protective equipment, Taylor said.
System-wide, Mercy telehealth appointments have grown from approximately 10,000 appointments in 2019 to 635,000 appointments in 2020.