In the 15 years since its founding, the Kansas University Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth (KUCTT) of the University of Kansas Medical Center has become one of the most active programs of its kind in the world. This longevity and success have now been recognized in the form of two new federal grants, one of which will make the Center one of only four telehealth resource centers in the United States.
Known as the Midwest Alliance for Telehealth and Technology Resources (MATTeR), the resource center is a partnership with Marquette General Hospital and Purdue University for providing leadership and training to other organizations interested in telemedicine. This multiparty resource center will also focus on improving the accessibility and quality of health care by supporting telehealth networks designed to meet the needs of rural and underserved residents within Kansas, Indiana, Michigan and the greater region. In addition, MATTeR will conduct telehealth research and coordinate evaluation activities with the other three resource centers.
The telehealth resource center initiative is a new concept organized and funded by the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). OAT has awarded approximately $1 million to fund MATTeR to be distributed among KU, Purdue and Marquette over the course of three years. The allied institutions offer a unique combination of individual expertise, and each will provide a distinct component of technical assistance, training and support to health care providers. KUCTT will focus on the technical aspects of telemedicine and will manage databases for the program's participants.
KUCTT will also be expanding its own program in Kansas through a separate, $750,000 HRSA/OAT grant. Over the next three years, this grant will help fund an expansion of the telehealth network bringing new services to 13 sites in 11 counties across Kansas. These counties have a population of 267,772 that includes a high proportion of elderly, children, Native Americans and Hispanics.
The expansion will especially target the delivery of more pediatric special needs services via telemedicine. Developmental delays and mental health diagnoses are increasing in Kansas children. While these conditions are common, the specialists who treat them are relatively rare. With this program expansion, KUCTT will focus on treating developmental disabilities such as autism by providing a link between patients and specialists.
KUCTT is the only telemedicine program in the country known to have received both of these grant awards, both of which were planned and written in a two month period this past summer. “We felt that our strategy of pursuing both awards in such a short timeframe would give us a great competitive advantage, especially since our competitors were essentially the same for both grant announcements,” stated Dr. Spaulding, Director of KUCTT and Principal Investigator of the network expansion grant. “We are thrilled to have received this funding and recognition for our program and look forward to improving health care access for many years to come.”
By providing improved access to the specific care patients need, from infancy onward, KUCTT will help to ensure Kansans enjoy a lifetime of health.
By Adam Lee and Ryan J. Spaulding, PhD