Two female doctors in white lab coats smile while completing virtual visits, one via a smartphone and one via her computer, while a male doctor wearing blue gives a thumbs up in a doctor's office.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Norman Regional Health System received $915,862 in grant funding for telehealth from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has provided $157.64 million of $200 million available in funding nationwide so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What was the application process like?

In the application process, Norman Regional’s telehealth team had to detail how the funding would be used, what kind of devices would be utilized and how they were integral to patient care, and how this would impact COVID and non-COVID patients.

“Telehealth Manager Bryce Ell and I poured a lot of teamwork into the application. We took the time to put a good plan together with solid date and costs, but we also felt a sense of urgency knowing that an application was not a guarantee we would receive funding as hundreds of entities across the country submitted applications,” Telehealth Coordinator Molly McCool-Hare said. “When we found out we were awarded the grant, I was thrilled, thankful, excited, and relieved all at the same time. From the day we applied to the day we were notified of the award was exactly nine weeks. In that time we did a lot of hoping and cautiously-optimistic planning.”

What will the grant be used toward?

Norman Regional’s grant will fund telemedicine carts, remote monitoring equipment, and tablets that will allow providers to conduct virtual visits. The carts will be used to virtually consult with patients in emergency departments and inpatient units and the remote monitoring equipment that will permit patients to transmit to the providers’ essential clinical data to make informed decisions with a patient and help keep that patient out of high-risk clinical settings where they may be exposed to COVID-19.

“While we did take time to celebrate, we also realized the work is just beginning,” McCool-Hare said. “We are excited to grow our telehealth program and put additional telehealth services directly in the hands of our patients and providers.”

What did Norman Regional’s telehealth team do when the pandemic started?

Norman Regional’s telehealth team and clinic leadership acted quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, training more than 170 providers working in primary care, specialty care and rehabilitation therapy in less than two weeks. The Norman Regional Virtual Care app was already in use for urgent care, as well as for some virtual visits with specific providers, but COVID-19 dramatically increased the usage of the app.

“While we are already doing virtual doctor visits, this funding will allow us to utilize remote exam kits and remote patient monitoring technology so our providers can have additional clinical values such as heart rate and oxygen saturation, which they cannot currently get if the patient is at home,” McCool-Hare said. “With the pandemic, telehealth exploded overnight, and not just for Norman Regional, but across the United States. Telehealth allowed us to protect our staff, our providers and our patients. We’re grateful to be awarded this funding as it will help Norman Regional continue providing high-quality care in innovative ways.”