Grant will expand distance learning, telehealth

ELLSWORTH – The University of Maine System has received a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Distance Learning and Telemedicine program grant. The 21st Century Connections grant application was the product of collaboration among the Maine Center, all University of Maine System universities, Maine Law and Northern Light Health. The grant will pay for technology improvements at 42 locations across the state, consisting of a combination of 31 web conferencing and 16 telemedicine service systems, linking hubs in Bangor and Portland to 39 hub and end-user sites in 11 Maine counties.

“The USDA grant provides an opportunity for the University of Maine System to truly transform the way that it engages with Maine’s rural communities; supports rural students, patients, and employers; and expands access to a wide range of educational programs and essential medical services that were previously tethered to urban population centers such as Portland and Bangor,” said U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden in a joint statement. “Most important, it will ensure our rural communities are not left behind amidst this pandemic and will emerge from it stronger.” 

Information Technology Services at the University of Maine System will oversee the project. Installation of new technology is expected to begin this summer and be complete by fall 2022.

Among the 42 upgrade sites in the 21st Century Connections grant are 26 web conference-enabled classrooms, expanding the statewide reach of the Maine Center’s existing smart classrooms in Portland and Orono to campuses and learning centers across the state. The campus-based upgrades at UMS universities will also improve educational access and opportunities to engage students studying at a distance with educational content in real time. 

Using USDA funds, the University of Maine System will build out HIPAA-compliant telemedicine exam and provider rooms at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth and at other hospital around the state.

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