AU gets federal funds to boost telehealth program

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 1:13 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta University on Tuesday announced that it’s receiving $1 million in federal funding to expand the Medical College of Georgia Center for Telehealth.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, AU President Brooks A. Keel and Medical College of Georgia Dean David Hess announced the funding in an 11 a.m. news conference.

“We have a lot of trouble attracting physicians, especially specialists to the rural hospitals,” said Carter.

Since the pandemic, telehealth has emerged as one of the easiest, most cost-efficient, and safe ways to receive care.

“It’s just the evolutionary process of giving care,” said Antonie Poythress, Jenkins County Medical Center. “You don’t always have to be face-to-face in order to get the same level of care.”

While it was projected to be a temporary substitute for in-person care at capacity-ridden hospitals, usage of telehealth continues to increase.

AU has already made recent strides in expanding telehealth service to rural areas of the CSRA, for example in January, collaborating with Emanuel Medical Center to bring telehealth services to Swainsboro. Partnerships like the one in Swainsboro also gives physicians and other care providers 24-hour remote access to MCG physicians, via telehealth.

“If we have a patient that’s in need of the ER, we connect with the ER specialist here at AU, and they are able to help guide our providers on what services we can do in order to handle that patient’s emergency,” said Poythress.

The MCG Center for Telehealth aims to reduce health care disparities, strengthen rural care partners and support rural patients by building relationships statewide through digital inclusion and a trained telehealth network.

“The Medical College of Georgia has shown great commitment to the continued advancement of telehealth in our communities,” Carter said. “I am both excited and optimistic to see what kind of revolutionary work comes as a product of this great program and how telehealth continues to advance and improve the lives of both patient and provider.”

It’s not a fix-all because the technology simply isn’t there yet.

“It will evolve over time as broadband becomes more available from the hospital to the home,” he said.


The Medical College of Georgia has focused on telehealth for many years, so this expansion is a natural progression of that foundation, Hess said.

Keel pointed out that while connectivity is not a significant barrier to telemedicine in rural Georgia, the lack of education and training on how to effectively use telemedicine remains a challenge.

“As the only public academic medical center in Georgia and a statewide medical school, this initiative helps us further our mission to serve the entire state’s health care needs,” said Keel. “Telemedicine is a powerful tool to address disparities in health care by enabling clinicians and specialists to reach underserved populations. We are proud of this next phase of our mission, and we expect this expansion of the MCG Center for Telehealth to have a significant impact to improve health care outcomes throughout the state for many years to come.”­

Brenna Martin is a first-year medical student. She said, “It has its limitations. Definitely. You can’t listen to the heart or the lungs or things like that. But there are a lot of things you can do. It’s a pretty big part of the medical curriculum and space.”