Weems receives national recognition for rural telemedicine

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Franklin County’s George E. Weems Memorial Hospital is one of three rural hospitals in the U.S. to receive national recognition recently for its innovative approach to providing telehealth services to the community.

The National Rural Health Resource Center notified Weems in mid-July of the Collaboration Through Telehealth award which recognizes the Weems telemedicine program that consists of coordinating with the Franklin County Emergency Medical Services and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital to install the necessary telehealth equipment in county ambulances and in the Weems clinics to provide remote patient access directly with Weems and TMH emergency physicians.

“The George E. Weems Memorial Hospital has been chosen to receive Critical Access Hospital recognition for demonstrating an innovative approach to collaboration through telehealth to minimize barriers by connecting rural populations to needed health care,” said Abbie Parmenter, flex coordinator with the Florida Department of Health.

Parmenter, who nominated Weems for the award, said she was “thrilled” for the small Franklin County rural hospital. “We applaud the work you are doing and the progress you are making in the telehealth field,” she said.

Weems CEO David Walker said the Weems, TMH and Franklin County EMS collaboration is a great medical solution for rural Franklin County and that he is grateful for the support and recognition by the federal and state rural health leaders.

“Telehealth is a game changer for rural areas,” said Walker. “We are glad to be a part of the solution of creating access to care via telehealth for our geographically isolated community.”

Walker said the Florida Rural Health Office has been a great partner in helping remove rural health disparities through the leverage of telehealth opportunities.

“The recognition means a lot to Weems because we are striving to connect the dots using telemedicine to bring excellence in health care to the people who need it the most,” he added. Walker said Weems has plans to expand telehealth services to include telehealth 911 services and additional telemedicine services throughout the local healthcare system.

Richard Lewis, Franklin County emergency medical services director, said the collaboration has led to the creation of a community paramedic program using telemedicine to improve healthcare throughout the county. “We look forward to assisting in bringing EMS telemedicine to the community,” said Lewis.

The National Rural Health Resource Center administers the Critical Access Hospital recognition program established by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to recognize the excellent work in CAHs and other rural safety net providers throughout the country. The recognition shares excellence and innovation, and honors the achievements.

Florida is one of three states in which two other critical access hospitals were chosen for recognition in Collaboration Through Telehealth. “The achievement in telehealth initiatives by CAHs is impressive,” said Sally Buck, chief executive officer at The Center. “It reflects the innovation required to address unique needs in rural communities. Providing services locally benefits the patient, the overall community, and enhances CAH performance outcomes.”

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