The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau has awarded a $113,744 grant to Augusta University Health to aid in the COVID-19 response.
The grant will be used to expand AU Health’s portable ultrasound program to screen patients for respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms related to COVID-19 before being admitted into the hospital.
“Augusta University Health is honored to receive this grant from the Federal Communications Commission, and the funding provides us with the needed resources to expand our COVID-19 screening and testing efforts,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD.
With the funding, AU Health will purchase nine telemedicine ultrasound systems from Philips that can peer into the lungs and hearts of patients to check for signs of pneumonia and even heart failure. The portable, painless ultrasound devices will be part of the bedside evaluations in the emergency department, intensive care units and in the health system’s EMS response vehicles.
“We are grateful to receive this grant from the FCC, because it helps us to meet the growing demand of prescreening patients for COVID-19, whether it’s at the scene of an accident or in our medical center,” said Dr. Matthew Lyon, director of the Center for Ultrasound Education in the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Although we have larger ultrasound machines, they are not practical to use in the field, and it takes more people to use them. With these additional telemedicine devices, we can reduce the number of health care workers in a patient’s room and be even more efficient in providing quality care to our patients.”
As a state leader in the pandemic response, AU Health has made strides in using telemedicine to treat patients with COVID-19. AU Health’s ExpressCare app has been made available to all of Georgia and parts of South Carolina free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patients who receive a positive screening are referred to a specimen collection site near their home. AU Health operates 11 of these drive-thru locations, which have performed more than 20,000 tests.
AU Health needs additional equipment and supplies to greatly increase screening and testing capacity within onsite labs, with a projected goal of performing 1,000-1,500 tests a day to meet the significant demand.