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Horizon Health Care, Inc. Expand Services

USDA PhotoShared with permission from the USDA Rural Development.

Howard, South Dakota February 24, 2016 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development South Dakota staff were in town to tour the Horizon Health Care, Inc. facility and to see firsthand how the latest technology of broadband network upgrades functions.

“Access to quality health care is important to communities and improved quality of life,” said Bruce Jones, Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development. “This distance learning project will improve communication between the hub and end-user sites.”

Horizon Health Care, Inc. was recently awarded grants funds of $238,303 from USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program. The funds will be used to provide health care to thirteen frontier designated counties that span 7,000 square miles in South Dakota. The project will help Horizon Health to designate all of their clinics Patient Centered Medical Homes. Patients that have emergent cardiovascular needs and require physician specialists will be able to be examined in their local rural clinics. Mental health services will be offered to residents via telemedicine for expert consultation that will result in fewer complications. Self-management diabetic training will be provided to improve overall condition and quality of life. This project will provide service to the South Dakota Counties of Miner, Minnehaha, Brown, Kingsbury, Hamlin, Sanborn, Jerauld, Aurora, Mellette, Todd, Buffalo, Bennett, and Beadle.

“Horizon’s HEART (Horizon – Expanding Access through Rural Telehealth) Project will upgrade and expand its current video conferencing technology infrastructure and telemedicine capacity,” said John Mengenhausen, Chief Executive Officer for Horizon Health Care, Inc. “This upgrade made possible through USDA, Horizon will offer our patients services via telemedicine in the areas of hypertension, depression, and diabetes self-management. In addition, the HEART Project will assist Horizon in transforming its clinics to Patient Centered Medical Homes, a nation-wide movement that centers on a care team approach as well as partnerships between patients and providers.”

The DLT Grant Program provides access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas. USDA Rural Development has eight offices in the state that assist rural communities. Office locations include a state office in Huron, along with area offices in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Yankton.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has produced historic investment in rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have strengthened America’s small towns and cities and helped improve the nation’s economy.

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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

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