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LBJ Hospital in line for USDA Telemedicine, Distance Learning Grants

LBJ Hospital sign
Source: USDA media release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Some 46 telehealth programs across the U.S. will receive funding in the latest round of Distant Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants from the US Department of Agriculture.

In all, the USDA is investing $42.3 million, including $24 million in CARES Act funds, to 86 programs in 34 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. The funding will go toward a wide range of connected health programs as well as programs to expand educational opportunities in schools through online platforms.

Both categories are in high demand as the nation deals with the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed both in-person healthcare and education and compelled providers, schools and communities to develop virtual care and learning services.

Territorial programs using DLT funds for telehealth are:

·                The American Samoa Medical Center Authority, which is getting $677,675 to launch a maternal telehealth program connecting island providers with specialists at the University of Hawai’i in Honolulu; The network will provide access to maternal-fetal medicine specialist services not current available in the territory.

Under the maternal telemedicine network, ultrasound images will be recorded at LBJ hospital and transmitted to maternal fetal medicine specialists at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

The funding will also provide improved access to routine care for women who live on American Samoa's islands.

For pregnant women who live on islands of Ofu or Ta'u, parental care requires an eight-hour boat ride to the main island of Tutuila to visit the only hospital.

The proposed project and partnership with the the University of Hawaii will deliver direct services to patients in American Samoa.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires a historic federal response,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”

·                The Island Eye Center on Guam, which is getting $742,547 to develop a telehealth platform to research, diagnose and treat eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, in patients in rural clinics;

·                Clinica Las Americas of Guaynabo, which is getting $694,110 to expand its telehealth platform to 46 sites in 13 municipalities across Puerto Rice