Mercy Health received a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission to expand its telehealth services in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Mercy’s hospitals in Arkansas will receive slightly less than $650,000 from the grant. Mercy has hospitals in Fort Smith, Rogers and Berryville in addition to clinics and other facilities in Arkansas.
Mercy said it had hosted more than 800,000 telehealth visits with patients since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. That is compared to 10,000 such visits in 2019.
“We’re seeing the future of health care during every virtual visit between patients and providers,” Mercy Clinic Fort Smith President David Hunton said. “Telehealth has proven to be an invaluable tool as we continue to work to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities and communities. It’s also convenient for our patients, allowing them an option to get medical care from the safety of their home. With the push of a button, we’re connecting patients with an expert medical team. This represents part of the future for health care delivery and means more access for more people.”
The hospital system said the expansion of services will also benefit Mercy’s rural locations and allow specialists to virtually support patients. The funds will be used to buy telemedicine carts and monitors.
“Today’s technology makes it possible for us to bring back the time-honored practice of making house calls for the modern era,” Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas President Scott Cooper said. “Telehealth takes that level of convenience and care even further by enabling specialists to meet with patients in our rural communities for visits and treatment that might have been otherwise put off if not for this improved access. This additional funding provides patients the opportunity to get the care they need and, more importantly, where they need it.”