ST. LOUIS — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded Mercy Health a $2.2 million grant to expand and upgrade its telehealth services to patients across Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Chesterfield-based health system made the announcement in a Friday morning news release. The grant will be distributed by state as follows:
- $793,788 for Mercy in Missouri
- $776,620 for Mercy in Oklahoma
- $647,154 for Mercy in Arkansas
"The $2.2 million grant will provide telemedicine carts and monitors giving Mercy co-workers the ability to contact offsite caregivers via video conferencing and allow for specialized, remote treatment, especially inside Mercy’s COVID and critical care units," the release said.
The funds will be earmarked for each location based on need, and both rural and larger locations will benefit.
Mercy has held more than 800,000 virtual telehealth visits since the pandemic began. That's compared to just 10,000 virtual visits it provided in 2019.
Mercy has also enrolled more than 65,000 patients in its COVID Care @ Home program since the pandemic began.
“We had to move very quickly when the pandemic hit,” stated Mercy Virtual President Dr. Gavin Helton in the release. “Because we had done so much foundational work in the virtual care space, we were able to quickly ramp up and provide care to our communities without the need for patients to leave home. Mercy’s newest virtual offering, COVID Care @ Home, has kept thousands of people out of the hospital and at home where they could be monitored 24/7.”
David Hinkle, executive director of business operations for Mercy’s Virtual Care Center, said the grant will help extend Mercy's telehealth care in the communities it serves.
“When we applied for the grant as part of our COVID planning, we looked at what we did during the first few months of the pandemic and how technology enabled our initial COVID response," Hinkle said in the release. "We were able to limit bedside exposure because patients could connect to our caregivers from home, while also providing invaluable communication between hospitalized COVID patients and their families. Additional funding will provide more telehealth opportunities across Mercy’s footprint, especially in our rural facilities.”
Mercy is one of the 25 largest health systems in the United States, with more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty hospitals and 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, as well as clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.