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Wake Forest Baptist Health receives $1.2 million to help improve rural health care in Wilkes County

WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest Baptist Health has received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help improve rural cardiovascular care in Wilkes County.

The funding will allow Wake Forest Baptist to expand its telehealth services by connecting the health system’s emergency care and cardiovascular experts virtually and in real-time with staff at Wilkes EMS, Wilkes County Health Department’s Public Health Community Clinic (PHCC) and Wake Forest Baptist Health — Wilkes Medical Center’s emergency department.

By using telehealth capabilities, Wake Forest Baptist’s expert clinicians will help Wilkes EMS paramedics quickly classify patients based on EKG readings, vital signs and risk scores, and will assist with treatment and transportation decisions.

In addition, Wake Forest Baptist will provide guidance to Wilkes Medical Center’s emergency department providers in evaluating, managing and transferring patients and will provide PHCC staff with consultative advice for patients who are seen in their clinic after they are treated by EMS or in the emergency department for cardiovascular symptoms.

“The goal of this project is to improve rural health equity and outcomes for patients by using telehealth to bring new, leading-edge cardiovascular care to communities throughout Wilkes County,” said Simon Mahler, M.D., M.S., professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist. “Our health system already operates a wide-reaching tele-stroke network for emergency departments across rural North Carolina — including Wilkes Medical Center — so expanding our telehealth program to improve rural cardiovascular care is a natural extension of that work.”

As part of the project, Mahler and his team will measure whether the implementation of cardiovascular telehealth helps reduce unnecessary emergency department visits, transfers and re-admissions. They will also determine if the program contributes to a decrease in heart attacks, invasive coronary procedures and cardiovascular mortality in Wilkes County.

The HRSA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically or medically vulnerable.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,198,513 with 100 percentage funded by HRSA/HHS. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. government.