Hancock Regional gets $410,000 grant to recoup COVID-19 tech expenses


GREENFIELD — Around late March, a patient dying from COVID-19 at Hancock Regional Hospital was able to say goodbye to family members using an iPad the hospital provided for just such dire circumstances.

Doctors and nurses knew that enhanced technology could help them treat patients with the deadly disease, even if that meant helping a patient say goodbye when no visitors were allowed at his bedside.

In July, the hospital won a $410,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission to get reimbursed for the hundreds of thousands dollars spent investing in technology to help manage the COVID crisis.

The grant was part of the CARES Act, a $2 trillion-plus economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in response to the economic fallout from the worldwide pandemic.

This particular funding fell under the FCC’s Telehealth Program, which has dedicated $200 million to help health-care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.

Jon Miller, Hancock Regional’s assistant vice president for finance and information services, credited the hospital’s medical staff for determining the best ways to use technology to benefit patients locally.

“We had some great input from Dr. (Michael) Fletcher, our chief medical officer, as well as other doctors and nurses as far as how to spend the money,” he said. “We tried to make the dollars go as far as we could.”

In addition to buying iPads to help patients communicate with loved ones, the hospital also purchased laptops, phones and other communication equipment to treat patients in the pandemic.

Among them was a portable camera system that can be rolled into a patient’s room, which allows doctors to connect with an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

The hospital also purchased laptops, telephones and other technology to set up a coronavirus triage line and testing site for the community.

Laptops were also purchased to help facilitate virtual visits between doctors and patients, which has become a common practice since the onset of COVID-19.

The hospital also invested in devices similar to smart phones that enable nurses to communicate securely within the hospital.

Miler said all the newly acquired technology has proven invaluable at the hospital over the past few months, but it was the iPads that generated the most positive feedback from patients and their families.

“Being in the hospital can be kind of a frightening thing. There’s a lot of apprehension,” he said. “Being able to connect with a family member, to share with them what you’re going through, is a great use of technology.”