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Commerce Department Funds Telehealth Networks

Projects in California and Georgia are among recipients of $482.4 million in grants to boost economic growth, create jobs, and improve healthcare through broadband infrastructure.

Image Gallery: Wireless Telehealth Brings Medical Help To Those In Need
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Telehealth networks in California and Georgia have received funding to improve and expand their broadband infrastructure, which will help these states bridge the technological divide in healthcare delivery.

Announced on Monday by U.S. commerce secretary Gary Locke, investments totaling $482.4 million in grants will go toward 35 projects across the country that will help boost economic growth, create jobs, and improve education and healthcare.

Among the funded projects are several telehealth networks, which integrate wireless and broadband communications technology with medical devices and applications to support technologies like videoconferencing that allow doctors and patients in distant locations to have an in-person-meeting experience. These networks also support telehealth devices, such as wireless sensors that remotely monitor heart rhythm and portable glucose monitoring systems, and can be used for healthcare literacy.

The commerce department said the grants, which come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will fund projects that pave the way to bring enhanced high-speed internet access to millions of households and businesses and link thousands of schools, hospitals, libraries, and public safety offices to the information superhighway.

The University of California, Davis received a $9.1 million grant, with an additional $4.7 million in matching contributions, to improve and expand telehealth service for California residents. The project will promote adoption of an existing telehealth broadband network in the state, establish 15 telehealth communities to serve as models for sustainable healthcare delivery, and equip community anchor facilities with tools and training to improve healthcare literacy via broadband access.

The Georgia Partnership for Telehealth was awarded a $2.5 million grant, with an additional $1.2 million in matching contributions, to connect community-serving institutions like hospitals, schools, and public health departments by expanding an existing telehealth network to 67 additional community anchor sites. The project also plans to implement a training and awareness program for residents and rural healthcare providers to improve healthcare delivery in areas of the state with high levels of poverty.

"In a globalized 21st century economy, when you don't have regular access to high-speed internet, you don't have access to all the educational, business, and employment opportunities it provides," Locke said in a statement. "These critical Recovery Act investments will create jobs and lay the groundwork for long-term sustainable economic growth in communities across America."

Another grant was offered to Professional Resources Management of Rabun in northern Georgia, which received a $1.1 million grant, with an additional $870,000 in matching contributions, to deploy 30 workstations in two new computer centers to improve workforce development, education, and healthcare services. The project also plans to improve access to health information for the public and launch a videoconferencing telehealth initiative to allow healthcare providers to interact and share information statewide.

GovNET was awarded a $39.3 million grant, with an additional $12.7 million in matching contributions, to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in Arizona. The project plans to improve broadband access for as many as 280 community institutions, with a focus on improving public safety, healthcare delivery, and other critical government services.

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