In Rural America, there are many challenges to accessing high-quality healthcare – one of the most significant challenges is physically getting to the locations where a specialist is practicing. Telemedicine is a great tool for rural hospitals, health clinics, and even dental practices to use to help people living in rural areas access the care they need. At USDA Rural Development, we know that increasing access to telemedicine and distance learning in rural America is essential to building healthier and more resilient communities.
In rural Washington, USDA awarded a $1 million Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants (DLT) to the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry to upgrade infrastructure for tele-dentistry in rural Washington and Montana. Specifically, this grant will help expand the Office of Regional Affairs’ distance learning and tele-dentistry footprint to 13 locations in Washington and nine locations in Montana, including five tribal clinics. Over the next three years, this partnership will fund 12 new chairside telemedicine carts. Eleven partners will be located at rural and tribal community dental clinics in Washington and Montana. The twelfth chairside telemedicine cart will be located at the University. Each cart is equipped with two-way secure video conferencing, intraoral camera and computer for dental charting, images, and access to electronic health records.
The grant will also help finance upgrades to the school’s simulation clinics in Seattle and Spokane to help students practice on dental mannequins for two years before performing procedures on live patients. Financing will also support upgrades for the school’s teleconference system.
With stories like this one, it’s easy to see how USDA’s DLT program is helping rural communities become connected to each other and the world. This program is also contributing to long-term advancements in how health care is accessed and delivered in rural America. At USDA, we believe investments that create prosperity in rural America is beneficial to the country as a whole – when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.
In celebration of National Rural Health Day on Thursday, Nov. 19, USDA is highlighting how we are working with rural leaders and our partners to increase access to critical health care across rural America.