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Carle receives $544,000 USDA grant to advance rural healthcare

Carle receives $544,000 USDA grant to advance rural healthcare
Carle Health has received a grant of $544,000 to improve rural access to telemedicine. The grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help connect nearly 200,000 rural residents in southeastern Illinois to specialists and other providers across the Carle healthcare system.

The grant is funded through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program and is part of a nearly $4.4 million dollar federal investment in healthcare and education across Illinois.

Sampson,-Suzanne.jpg“Telemedicine is truly revolutionizing the way we are able to care for patients,” Suzanne Sampson, senior vice president, Transformation Services, Carle Health said. “These funds are going to provide critical telemedicine resources to rural communities to bring them the care they need right where they are. Carle is proud to be at the forefront of this innovative technology.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, telemedicine has become a significant way patients receive care from virtually anywhere. Now more than ever, this connectivity is changing the way we are able to treat patients across the Carle service area.

“The last two years alone have shown us how important having access to broadband infrastructure is to the success of any community, but especially remote rural areas with greater physical and geographic barriers,” Molly Hammond, acting state director, USDA said. “The investments being announced today will help to continue to bridge the ‘digital divide’ in rural communities by expanding access to important health care and educational services like telemedicine and distance learning.”

Patients in rural communities face unique challenges in healthcare, from transportation to limited access to certain specialists. Funds from this USDA grant will support rural patients at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney, Illinois by connecting them to these resources at Carle Foundation Hospital, a 453 bed Level 1 Trauma Center serving south, central and eastern Illinois.

This connectivity will reduce the need to transfer these patients to a different facility to receive the care they need. It will also reduce the number of used beds at larger facilities, such as Carle Foundation Hospital, and Thomas-Gina-HIGH-RES-admin.jpgincrease access for more regional patients who need a higher level of care.

“This is a monumental moment for our patients and our communities,” Gina Thomas, DNP, president, Carle Richland Memorial Hospital said. “Patients in rural communities now have even greater access to specialists and advanced care within our walls. Our commitment to rural health and bringing that expert care close to home is stronger than ever.”

Some of the projects funded by this grant include state-of-the-art equipment to create telemedicine endpoints in 30 individual patient rooms at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital. These in-room telehealth solutions will allow a remote provider located hundreds of miles away to be right at the bedside of a patient in Olney, Illinois. Critical access areas, such as the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency department (ED) and other units will pilot this program.

Carle will also invest in mobile telemedicine carts for staff to use in patient rooms throughout the facility. This will allow providers to be at the bedside of any patient whether they are in a telemedicine-enabled room or not.

“This level of leading-edge technology isn’t something you see every day in rural communities like ours,” Thomas said. “Our team members work tirelessly each day to ensure our patients have access to the best care possible. I couldn’t be prouder of this achievement.”

As a leader in rural health, Carle launched the Rural Alliance for Exceptional Care to coordinate care in the region and ensures resources, like telemedicine, are available for patients closer to home. The Rural Alliance includes:
  • Carle Hoopeston Regional Health Center
  • Kirby Medical Center in Monticello
  • Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney
  • Crawford Memorial Hospital in Robinson
  • Horizon Health in Paris
While funds from this grant will pilot this in-room solution at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, Carle intends to expand this access to more patients system-wide in the future.

Visit for more information on how Carle Health is redefining healthcare around you.

Categories: Redefining Healthcare

Tags: “rural, “virtual, grant, health”, Olney, telehealth