ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Mercy announced in a Monday, Jan. 17 news release it has received a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission to expand and upgrade its telehealth services for patients across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

“This grant will help us extend our telehealth care to more people in the communities we serve,” said David Hinkle, executive director of business operations for Mercy’s Virtual Care Center.

According to the release, Mercy has provided more than 800,000 virtual visits between patients and Mercy clinic medical providers, since the start of the pandemic. There were only 10,000 Mercy virtual visits in 2019.

Benefits of telehealth also include allowing specialists to connect remotely to support patient care, preserving personal protective equipment for in-patient care, and promoting social distancing by serving high-risk and vulnerable populations from their home.

The release also said the grant will provide telemedicine carts and monitors that allow Mercy co-workers to contact offsite caregivers via video conferencing and allow for specialized, remote treatment, especially inside Mercy’s COVID and critical care units.

“Today’s technology makes it possible for us to bring back the time-honored practice of making house calls for the modern era,” said Dr. Scott Cooper, president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas. “Telehealth takes that level of convenience and care even further by enabling specialists to meet with patients in our rural communities for visits and treatment that might have been otherwise put off if not for this improved access.”

The exact funding total is $2,217,562, which will be distributed to each location based on need, and will be distributed to states as follows:

  • $647,154 for Mercy in Arkansas
  • $776,620 for Mercy in Oklahoma
  • $793,788 for Mercy in Missouri

According to the release, Mercy’s COVID Care @ Home program has enrolled more than 65,000 patients since the start of the pandemic. In addition, virtual care services have allowed Mercy caregivers to recommend the most appropriate level of care for clinically triaged patients.