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NEW ALBANY — Baptist Health has received an $873,982 grant from the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program to fund a pair of physical distancing efforts — one to effectively treat these contagious patients and another to electronically link Baptist Health Medical Group (BHMG) providers and their patients.

The grant covers special equipment purchased to remotely connect critical care physicians and caregivers with COVID-19 patients in one of the system’s eight hospitals or those being monitored at home. In addition, all BHMG offices will have a video camera and speaker to conduct video visits with their patients.

“We’re thrilled to have the FCC recognize our efforts with telehealth,” said Brett Oliver, MD, Baptist Health’s chief medical information officer. “This grant award helps us fund digital initiatives to connect our patients and our healthcare providers. Now each of our medical group providers in all specialties can see their own patients using these digital tools.

“In some of our service areas, certain medical subspecialties are scarce. The video options allow us to expand the care in certain specialties to a broader patient population without the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

For a digital visit, the patient needs a smartphone, tablet or computer. Learn more at BaptistHealthVirtualCare.com

“These digital tools allow us to safely and effectively treat our patients in a way that’s very convenient for them,” said Matt Bailey, Baptist Health Floyd interim president.

Among the items purchased with the grant funds were 16 carts equipped with high-powered cameras, and touchscreen computers for video visits with specialists for patients in isolation while in the hospital. The cameras can detect such details as dilated pupils and other key symptoms.

Other video visit tools included were digital otoscopes (to check the ears) and digital stethoscopes (to check heart and lung sounds), iPads with cellular capabilities to use in areas with poor WiFi service and speakers.

“Having these tools in place for patients located in rural communities to ease their travel burden, improve their ability to seek out healthcare – both preventive and when they are ill – and take a proactive approach in their own health, can vastly improve the health of these patients and even save lives,” said Nick Sarantis, Baptist Health’s system digital health director.

Benefiting from grant-purchased equipment are all eight Baptist Health hospitals and Baptist Health Medical Group providers,

Telehealth became increasingly important with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, so patients could still shelter at home yet connect with providers for needed medical care or assessment by email or video. Since March 16, Baptist Health digital health visits have soared to more than 1,700 a day.

To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 367 funding applications in 45 states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of $128.23 million in funding.

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