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Rural Health Broadband Initiative

In May 2012, MoBroadbandNow completed a one year regional technology planning process with each region developing short and long-term strategic broadband goals.  Each Regional Technology Planning Team had representation from health, wellness and emergency service sectors. As a result of the planning process and other community engagement, MoBroadbandNow identified that affordable, fast and reliable high-speed Internet remains elusive to many Missouri communities, most notably in providing quality, 21st Century technology-based healthcare.

The Rural Health Broadband Initiative supports rural hospitals in underserved cities and towns with the last-mile connection, health record cloud storage, disaster recovery support and professional communication in “real time”.  Healthcare professionals and providers need access to broadband to offer telemedicine services, electronic health record management, patient registration and data collection, digital imaging and transmission, professional development and training along with other applications through online resources. 

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The Rural Hospital Broadband Connection Project provided 15 awards to hospitals with 50 patient beds or less.  Hospitals will provide MoBroadbandNow with information, including case studies, on how new or upgraded broadband connectivity contributes to the quality of life in rural Missouri in regards to health care and its associated costs.  Hospitals will document how new or improved broadband speeds impact areas of health care delivery, including: improved hospital-patient care and outcomes; affected accuity rates; reduced patient costs (direct and indirect); increased preventative care; improved administrative efficiency; promotion of online and in-home healthcare access; and assisting in community healthcare and outreach.

Participating hospitals may not use grants for broadband construction or for the purchase of equipment. In addition, hospitals agree to become members of the Missouri Telehealth Network.  The network began in 1994 as one of the nation’s first public-private partnerships in telemedicine.  Using a 2 gigabit infrastructure, MTN exists to enhance access to care to underserved areas of Missouri and provide educational opportunities for healthcare providers.

Total project amount: $375,000.00

Grant term: December 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014 (20 months)

Awards: 15 rural hospitals with 50 patient beds or less, up to $25,000.00 or $1,250.00 monthly equivalent per project recipient

Advisory support for the Rural Health Broadband Initiative includes the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services – Rural Health Division; University of Missouri – Missouri Telehealth Network, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Foundation for Health – Community Health and Prevention Division, United States Department of Agriculture – Missouri State Office, Regional Technology Planning Teams and private broadband providers.