US Department of Agriculture awards Alabama $500k to expand telemedicine

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham received a $495,877 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its telemedicine network.

The new funds — which were made possible by the USDA Rural Utilities Services Grant — will increase rural Alabamans' access to care by establishing 19 new telemedicine locations. Telemedicine equipment will be distributed to nine hospitals and 10 Alabama Department of Public Health county health departments.

Health experts in the state said the telemedicine expansion will better connect its rural citizens to specialists, though they noted not every type of specialty can be offered through virtual visits.

"The specialties that are best suited for telemedicine right now are largely image-based and lab-based, where the physical exam is important but targeted, and there are already telemedicine solutions in place," Eric Wallace, MD, medical director of Telehealth at UAB said in a news release.

"If we can provide specialty care in rural communities, it will help enable community physicians to care for their patients locally," Dr. Wallace added. "If we're working with rural hospitals, then it helps keep patients there, which helps those hospitals financially as well."

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