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USDA weighs input for telemedicine grant program

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USDA weighs input for telemedicine grant programThe U.S. Department of Agriculture is mulling over comments on a proposed amendment involving the department's new Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program, which will provide loans and

USDA weighs input for telemedicine grant program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is mulling over comments on a proposed amendment involving the department's new Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program, which will provide loans and grants for such projects to benefit rural areas. The comment period ended May 16.

The proposed amendment is necessary to implement the new program, which was mandated by the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996. It will establish, among other things, the method of selecting projects to receive loans and grants and allocating the available funds, as well as the requirements for submitting an application for financial assistance, according to the USDA's Rural Utilities Service. The RUS proposed the amendment and will administer the new loan program.

The RUS expects that, after four years, approximately 500 rural medical facilities in the program will gain access to improved medical care through links to other rural hospitals and major urban medical centers. Usage would include clinical interactive video consultation, distance training of rural healthcare providers, management and transport of patient information, and access to medical expertise or library resources. The previous RUS Distance Learning and Telemedicine loan program has received nearly 900 applications (including distance learning programs) since its inception in 1993, according to the RUS.

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