Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced a telemedicine initiative with funding for $3.3 million in grant funding to help healthcare providers assist victims of sexual assault. The Department of Justice earmarked the funds to create the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Telenursing Center to help support victims of sexual assault nationally.
The Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) has long worked with community partners to improve the quality of medical care for sexual assault victims in the state. So far, the SANE program has treated more than 16,000 patients by a total of 105 trained providers within the state.
The problem is that nationally many frontline healthcare providers do not routinely provide sexual assault treatment services and may not be readily familiar with the specific medical, emotional needs of the victims, and the forensic needs of the criminal justice system.
To begin the development of the Center, a new pilot Telenursing Center will be created at Newton-Wellesley Hospital to provide 24/7 access to expert medical assistance and consultation for healthcare providers. The pilot developed by national expert forensic sexual assault nurse examiners and healthcare providers will work with selected populations in pilot locations throughout the country.
Grant funding was made available by the Department of Justice in their Office for Victims of Crime, following a nationally competitive grant application process. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will lead the project and the Newton-Wellesley Hospital will provide the location and infrastructure to support the Telenursing Center. The American Doctors Online/PhoneDOCTORx will provide consultative services plus the telemedicine network design.
Funding will be used to support information technology equipment and assistance at each pilot site, provide for clinical staffing and education, and provide technical assistance for pilot participants to evaluate the ongoing program. Best practices and lessons learned while conducting this telemedicine pilot project will later be incorporated into the development of the National Telenursing Center.
The grant includes three phases of implementation. In the first year, the agencies will develop the necessary infrastructure and capabilities to deliver quality telenursing services and identify partner healthcare sites that will work within the four targeted populations. The second and third years of the grant will focus on implementing high quality telenursing care to nationwide populations.
“This program will allow us to use telemedicine to promote the most effective physical, emotional, and forensic care for sexual assault victims,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, Interim Commissioner of DPH. “We also need to do everything that we can to support frontline professionals who work with these patients.”
For more information on the SANE program, go to www.mass.gov/dph/sane.