A USDA grant will bring high-tech virtual healthcare to Mercy Hospital at Mountain View.

A USDA grant will bring high-tech virtual healthcare to Mercy Hospital at Mountain View.

Thanks to the $496,349 USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants, Mercy Virtual will implement a project that includes hospitalists, emergency care, stroke and neurology services at several locations, including the Howell County community. The video equipment will benefit more than 210,000 residents and will be placed in nine communities.

“Almost half of the communities Mercy serves are in some of the most remote rural areas,” said Mark Saxon, vice president of clinical operations for Mercy Virtual. “These residents don’t have access to the level of care found in larger cities, and in some of these communities, they have no medical care. This grant will allow us to install video equipment that will provide access to hundreds of Mercy medical specialists and even greater access to primary care.”

The grant is part of $42.5 million the USDA is investing in 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety and healthcare, and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

“If you live in small community and you have a stroke, you sometimes have to travel 50 to 100 miles one way to the nearest urban area to see physicians highly trained in stroke care,” said Dr. Gavin Helton, Mercy Virtual’s senior vice president of population health. “Specialized physicians live and practice in highly populated areas. Many rural communities don’t have the luxury or the resources to provide this level of care. But with the use of high-tech, powerful cameras providing live video, someone in Healdton, Okla.,, can be virtually seen by a Mercy doctor hundreds of miles away.”

Mercy Virtual, the driver behind the telemedicine projects, creatively combines people and technology to extend Mercy’s reach and services well beyond the walls of doctors’ offices, hospital campuses and other traditional facilities. By studying the impact of new approaches and then putting new technologies to the test, Mercy ultimately hopes to provide better care through more convenient and lower-cost locations.



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