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Horizon Health Care, Inc. Receives USDA Grant to Expand Access of Rural Telehealth

Horizon Health Care, Inc. (Horizon) recently received its fourth USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, which will provide unprecedented health care access to rural populations through the expansion of their existing telemedicine capabilities.

The project proposed by Horizon, Horizon – Expanding Access through Rural Telehealth (HEART), is an innovative project that will be provided as a transformation of Horizon clinics to Patient-Centered Medical Homes. The PCMH model is a nation-wide movement that centers on a care team approach, as well as partnerships between patients and providers, and lastly expanded access of services and communication with specialty physicians. This transformation will ensure that all patients served have the coordinated, high quality health care in their own rural communities. Based on assessments of Horizon’s existing services and gaps in local availability of health care, the HEART project will focus on addressing the following issues by enhancing services through telemedicine:

  • Cardiovascular services to address the high prevalence and lack of control of cardiovascular disease risk factors.
  • High rates of diabetes and poor disease self-management among rural, low-income residents in the region require that access to specialty care (e.g. endocrinologists) and diabetes self-management education be easily accessible through telemedicine.
  • Access to behavioral health care continues to be a challenge for rural residents in the HEART program region – a situation that is evident in untreated and chronic depression and suicide, among the region’s adults and teens.
  • Limited capacity of primary health care providers in the project’s rural communities has led to many rural, uninsured or underinsured patients to rely on local hospital emergency departments as a source of primary care. Unfortunately, this care is costly for patients and often requires significant travel and can be fragmented, as the ability for emergency staff to coordinate care over time is limited, at best. As a result, primary care capacity of the CHCs must be expanded via telemedicine to ensure greater access, and to provide residents with a local, more coordinated source of care for non-emergency health issues.

During the three year project period, Horizon will work under the HEART Project to address these issues and make appropriate referrals to cardiologists, diabetes specialists, and behavioral health specialists via telemedicine and improve timely treatment of patients in each of these areas. “With this latest grant funding, we have a great opportunity to combine the HEART Project with Horizon’s existing telehealth efforts and over fifteen years of experience in delivering healthcare via telemedicine to help Horizon’s rural clinics move to the next level in delivering quality health care services and education,” said Scott Weatherill, Chief Information Officer of Horizon.

For over 35 years, Horizon Health Care, Inc. has been providing personalized, affordable, high-quality medical, dental and mental health care through a rural, community-based network in South Dakota. Horizon is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves the medical, dental and mental health care needs of South Dakotans in rural, medically underserved areas through 78,000 patient visits annually in 18 community health centers in: Aberdeen, Bryant, DeSmet, Howard, Huron, Fort Thompson, Lake Preston, Martin, Mission, Plankinton, Wessington Springs, White River and Woonsocket. For more information please visit www.horizonhealthcare.org.

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