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Tennessee receives $7.9 million FCC Telehealth Grant to expand Health Care Services to Rural and Underserved Patients

Tennessee CoverKidsNashville, TN – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee will receive a $7.9 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand the Tennessee Telehealth Network (TTN) to an additional 400 facilities and make health care services more readily available to Tennesseans in rural and underserved communities.

TTN is a program of the non-profit Community Health Network (CHN), whose 62 clinics and the Tennessee Primary Care Association make telehealth technology accessible to rural Tennessee health care providers.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

“Our goal has always been to move Tennessee’s eHealth concept out of the laboratory and into the doctor’s office as quickly as we can for practical use,” Haslam said. “The key is to use information technology so we can organize and communicate health information simply to each part of a complex health care system.”

CHN will use the FCC grant to bring commercial-quality Internet and privacy-compliant data exchange infrastructure to health care providers in rural Tennessee areas that do not have access to these services. Rural and nonprofit health care facilities will be able to use this basic infrastructure to provide primary care and specialty health care services, such as pediatrics, psychiatry and ophthalmology.

“Tennessee continues to be in the forefront on extending telemedicine- and the incredible opportunities that it provides- to all of its citizens,” said FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate from Tennessee. “I am committed to taking whatever steps possible to foster access to a healthcare network that brings 21st century medicine to every corner of the nation.”

Ultimately, the FCC grant will allow health care facilities to provide telehealth and ePrescribing services, and to exchange patient data securely through electronic medical records.

“We are developing a basic telehealth framework for all 95 Tennessee counties that will lead to better health care for patients,” said Antoine Agassi, chair of Haslam’s eHealth Council. “Our next step is to push toward greater broadband connectivity at the point of care at physician practices, hospitals and clinics statewide.”

CHN has worked closely with Haslam’s eHealth Council and other state agencies to deploy TTN to federally-qualified health care clinics (FQHC) and other healthcare facilities in Tennessee. In September, the Tennessee Department of Health awarded CHN a $1.6 million federal grant to establish the Middle Tennessee Rural Health Information Network (MTRHIN) to connect four, non-profit hospitals in Carthage, Gallatin, Hartsville and Lafayette to a single health information network.

Haslam formed the eHealth Council in 2006 to coordinate initiatives across the state for creating electronic medical records. Haslam’s leadership in the arena of eHealth led to the National Governors Association (NGA) appointing him co-chair of NGA’s State Alliance for eHealth with Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.

The University of Tennessee’s Health Sciences Center joins CHN and the state as a grant recipient.

The grant is part of the FCC’s $400 million Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP) to expand access to health care to America’s rural and underserved communities through the creation of broadband telehealth networks in 42 states and three U.S. territories.

Among other awardees in this FCC announcement were Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, $2.2 million, and Mountain States Health Alliance in upper east Tennessee, $93,000.


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