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Health initiative ends, benefits continue

Health initiative ends, benefits continue
Representatives from Co-Lin and Franklin County Memorial Hospital meet to conclude a three-year multi-agency collaborative effort to aid local patients and future health care professionals. Pictured (left to right) are Workforce Coordinator Robin Mitchell, FCMH Clinic Manager Rhonda Terrell, Co-Lin President Dr. Jane Hulon Sims, Co-Lin Executive Vice President Dr. Dewayne Middleton, and FCMH Administrator Mike Boleware.

After three years and a multi-agency collaborative effort, the rural health initiative between Co-Lin and Franklin County Memorial Hospital has ended, leaving behind new local patients and a future health care workforce that will provide benefits for years to come.

The Delta Regional Community Healthcare Consortium was formed to provide healthcare-related programs and services in the Mississippi Delta region to support job training for healthcare professionals, to deliver health education programs for residents, and to help in the expansion of healthcare services in Mississippi’s rural communities. It includes Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems-Extension (CAVS-E), Co-Lin, Hinds Community College, and North Central Planning and Development District (NCPDD). The initiative was made possible with the support of a grant awarded by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The strategies and activities of this project helped improve the quality of care and patient safety, increased the strength, effectiveness, and sustainability of healthcare providers and their services and narrowed the gap in healthcare in this region. The objectives of the project in the Delta Regional Authority area were all met or exceeded: aiding rural and economically distressed hospitals, healthcare facilities, communities, patients and their family members, introducing e-connectivity to rural areas to improve the quality of life, supporting the rural workforce, harnessing technological innovation, and promoting economic development in the region. The result of the initiative includes training of 42 healthcare workers, 300 patients, and 150 individuals (family members of patients) which has reduced barriers to healthcare access and improved patient health outcomes in Franklin County.

Co-Lin executed its part of the project by utilizing funds in several target areas. A partnership with Franklin County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) was established with plans to purchase telehealth equipment and devices and train healthcare professionals and patients in the service area on the use of the telehealth services. Patients diagnosed with two or more chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, within the FCMH Clinic System were outfitted with a Bluetooth toolkit -- an Apple iPad Tablet with Bluetooth connectivity that featured a forehead non-touch thermometer, pulse oximeter, wrist style blood pressure monitor, gluco-monitoring bundle and a body composition scale.

Franklin Co. Memorial Hospital Clinic System healthcare professionals, patients, and the patients’ family members were trained on the use of telehealth equipment/medical devices. While technology can be intimidating, every effort was made to assist users. Co-Lin filmed short instructional videos on the use of the equipment which were loaded onto the iPads. Additionally, employees at the local ambulance service, Rural Rapid Response, were trained on the telehealth equipment issued to the patients, which prepared ambulance crews to access the equipment for needed medical information, if needed for pre-hospital treatment. The purpose of providing training across multiple agencies was to improve the overall care of patients in multiple environments.

The benefits of the telehealth kits are three-fold: Bluetooth devices provide technological innovation in the critical area of healthcare to people that would not otherwise be able to afford it. Every routine check-up attended via a telehealth clinic visit from home decreases the potential for vulnerable patients to be exposed to illnesses. Finally, these tools allow patients to check routine vitals and safely upload the data into a medical chart through telehealth e-connectivity without leaving home.

Family Medical Group family nurse practitioner Deanna Ballard said “I love knowing that my patients have quality equipment at home to monitor their vital signs. It is great to be able to see what their results are between clinic visits. This helps me accurately diagnose chronic issues and prescribe appropriate medications.”

Front-line emergency medical personnel were also among grant targeted groups and were offered educational opportunities. Co-Lin offered stipends to enrollees in basic and advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) programs with funds from the grant which diminished the student’s program related expenses. These entry-level courses educated and trained students on basic assessment to advanced life-support skills needed for pre-hospital and in-hospital emergency care and prepared them to take the EMT national registry exam. Professional development opportunities were also offered to those needing to update their certification.

Through the grant, Co-Lin has also invested in future first responders by installing a production studio to develop virtual training and curriculum for hybrid EMT certification and recertification opportunities. Virtual training for emergency medical technicians and paramedics will allow individuals to re-certify or further their education without disrupting their work schedule. These investments in the emergency medical workforce have provided worthwhile results. Twelve students secured jobs with an average starting salary of $13.50 an hour, and ten students obtained certification through the advanced EMT program which resulted in retaining their jobs and receiving raises of approximately $2.00 an hour.

“We are thankful to have had the opportunity to work with our grant partners on this project,” said Co-Lin Workforce Center Director Luke Laird. “The opportunities and services that it afforded the communities that we serve are invaluable. This grant has helped to cultivate advancements in patient monitoring and emergency services which not only realized immediate benefits but will continue to yield results in the future.”


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