University of Mississippi Medical Center's Center for Telehealth
Need: Rural areas in Mississippi often lack adequate access to specialty healthcare services such as emergency medicine, stroke neurology, pediatric specialists and psychiatrists.
Intervention: The University of Mississippi Medical Center created the Center for Telehealth to deliver quality specialty services through telehealth video conferencing and remote monitoring tools to the underserved areas of Mississippi.
Results: The program has been successfully implemented throughout many of the state's rural hospitals and has reduced transfers and geographic barriers for patients.
Rural hospitals in Mississippi often lack adequate access
to healthcare and specialty care services. Of the 82
counties in the state, 53 of them are more than 40
minutes away from specialty care. This made it difficult
for rural residents to access needed care without
extensive travel. It was also a burden on the hospitals,
as they often lost needed reimbursements because they had
to transfer patients to larger hospitals due to a lack of
As the only academic medical
center in the state, the University of Mississippi
Medical Center (UMMC) views telehealth as imperative to
reaching residents and eliminating barriers to
healthcare. In 2003, they began offering specialty care
through telehealth to expand services to rural hospitals
and clinics across the state. The
Center for Telehealth was launched a decade later in
2013. Through the Center, patients and providers can
access needed healthcare services through telemedicine
Initial funding for the program came from the Bower Foundation and
the Mississippi State
Department of Health. In 2017, UMMC was designated
one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence by the
Health Resources and
Services Administration (HRSA). To date, HRSA has
awarded UMMC more than $5 million in grant funding to
help build the necessary research infrastructure for
telehealth. The designation allows the Center to serve as
a national clearinghouse for telehealth research and
resources, including technical assistance to other
With the TelEmergency program, specialty trained nurse
practitioners (NPs) can collaborate with physicians and
work directly under emergency medicine physicians at the
University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) via a
telemedicine connection. This team works together to
provide quality care to patients in rural hospitals in
real-time. The patients are treated with guidance and
input from remote experts board certified in emergency
The Center's services have expanded to offer
non-emergency urgent care to all Mississippi residents.
Mississippi state employees or public school teachers
covered by the state or school employees' health
insurance plan can receive the same minor medical care as
in a UMMC clinic through
UMMC 2 You. This app enables the employee to visit a
Center for Telehealth provider via live video. A number
of companies also offer UMMC 2 You as a benefit to their
UMMC and a regional wireless communication service have
collaborated on a mobile telehealth app that allows
anyone in Mississippi to receive non-emergency urgent
care from UMMC telehealth providers. The free app,
Health, is improving access to quick and reliable
care for routine ailments, especially for those in rural
and underserved areas.
The Center for Telehealth Network launched The
Mississippi Diabetes Telehealth Network in August 2014 to
pilot an advanced healthcare model on patients with
uncontrolled diabetes living in the Mississippi Delta. By
bringing healthcare resources into the patient's home
through remote patient monitoring kits, the Center aimed
to improve clinical outcomes and care coordination for
chronic disease management. Success of the Mississippi
Diabetes Telehealth Network has lead UMMC to enhance
programs for patients having multiple diseases.
The Center for Telehealth is now in multiple clinic sites
in all 82 counties across Mississippi. Telehealth is
offered in clinics, hospital, schools, and businesses,
and directly to the consumer on personal devices. Their
services have totaled more than 500,000 patient
interactions, with about 37,000 individual patients
reached since 2013. As a result, rural facilities have
Keep patients in their local facilities and closer to
home and family.
Improve the hospital's operating margins.
Enhance the rural recruitment and retention of health
professionals at these hospitals.
Avoid unnecessary transfer of patients by accessing
specialty physicians remotely.
Improve care coordination.
Reduce duplicate tests.
Improve workforce and
professional development education.
Additional recognition received by the Center includes:
The Center for Telehealth holds accreditation from
URAC, a nonprofit
organization that promotes healthcare quality.
The UMMC Center for Telehealth faces similar barriers
to other comprehensive programs across the nation.
Provider capacity is an issue, as well as the ability to
provide services across state lines, due to the lack of
license reciprocity. The restrictions on payment from
Medicare related to geography and type of telemedicine
have slowed the program's growth. In light of these
difficulties, the program's coordinators work through
congressional delegation in Washington DC to address
This program can be a viable solution for other rural
hospitals, clinics, and other settings with a shortage of
specialty care. It is a cost-effective way to expand
services, and patients are able to receive a wide-range
of medical services close to home.
UMMC offers a
clinical training program that teaches clinicians,
administrators, and technical staff how to implement a
telemedicine program like this one.
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.