The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities Receive University Funding Award to Further Statewide Telehealth Infrastructure

November 30, 2020

The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities, on behalf of the College of Health Sciences, has been awarded the 2020 University of Wyoming Foundation's Heywood Fund Award. The funded project will enhance research, teaching, scholarship, and community engagement related to telehealth services delivery in the College of Health Sciences.  The project will equip graduate and undergraduate students with the necessary knowledge and skills to implement telehealth services in their future practices. In addition, the college will deliver ongoing professional development to community-based providers for relevant and complex healthcare conditions.

The University of Wyoming Heywood Fund was established in 1984 by John Heywood, a UW alumnus, in memory of Catherine Donofrio Heywood. The Heywood Fund awards one grant every two years to provide funding for priority projects identified by the university's ten colleges and divisions. These grants offer an opportunity for substantial one-time funding for major projects that have a significant impact on university programs.

The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) will leverage three current projects - the Wyoming Telehealth Network, the UW ECHO networks, and the Equality State Research Network - for long term impact and sustainability of the Heywood initiative.

The Wyoming Telehealth Network supports healthcare entities, providers, and specialists to implement best-practices and improve health outcomes for Wyoming residents, through professional development, collaboration, and leveraging of telecommunications technology. The network, a collaboration with the Wyoming Department of Health and in partnership the Wyoming Medical Society, the Hospital Association and Primary Care Association, currently engages with 1700 healthcare providers ranging from specialties in primary care, mental health, allied health, public health nursing, among others.

The Equality State Research Network (ESRN) is a statewide network committed to engaging in community-based research to improve the overall health of Wyoming residents. The ESRN incorporates community engagement, quality improvement, and scientific inquiry.

The University of Wyoming ECHO program provides training and coaching with interdisciplinary groups of highly knowledgeable individuals and professionals. This model builds statewide capacity as evidenced-based practices evolve, and improves health care provider, patient and family outcomes.

 The challenges faced by Wyoming's healthcare system continue to be exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Telehealth has been identified as a key strategy in not only providing medical care during the pandemic, but also for addressing larger rural health disparities in Wyoming. Solutions are critically needed to effectively meet the needs of rural America, and the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences will play a critical role in ensuring that the future workforce is prepared to meet these needs. This project will provide additional expertise and faculty support to build core interdisciplinary curricula, enhance interprofessional practice experience and learning to develop community-based research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students otherwise not currently available across college programs.

  • Schools and divisions in the UW College of Health Sciences will contribute significant expertise to this initiative in their curriculum and practicum to provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to gain relevant experience and training using telehealth. Faculty and clinicians in the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, in addition to contributing to the curriculum and practicum in telehealth competencies, will integrate the materials into future core program curricula.
  • The Division of Communication Disorders will translate their experience using telehealth in clinical settings for other divisions in the College.
  • The Division of Kinesiology and Health will contribute their expertise in education on physical and occupational discipline specific telehealth education on direct clinical and applied service.
  • The Division of Social Work faculty will contribute to competency development and student engagement in the research, education and training activities around topic of ethics of provision of services to vulnerable populations.
  • The School of Pharmacy will bring expertise in technology innovation and direct services improvement.

Notes Sandy Root-Elledge, WIND executive director, "The Heywood Fund provides the College of Health Sciences with the opportunity to engage faculty and students, from multiple disciplines, to best practices in telehealth.  Ultimately, we anticipate enhancing healthcare access and outcomes throughout Wyoming."