GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An $8.8 million grant has been given to BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to help improve access to cardiovascular care in rural areas.

Spectrum said the telerobotic project will build on the expertise and experience of its interventional cardiology team to “help cardiac catheterization labs in the upper Midwest and Nevada establish robotic-assisted coronary programs.” An education and training center will also be established.

“Bringing robotics into the cath lab can help improve patient outcomes and extend a physician’s ability to practice medicine,” Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley trustee, said in a press release. “Hospitals serving rural patients should have access to technology that can level the playing field.”

The project builds on the work of Ryan Madder, MD, an interventional cardiologist, and Stacie VanOosterhout, MEd, a research project specialist. Spectrum said they have “successfully integrated robotic-assisted coronary intervention into their practice,” showing that telerobotic, catheter-based treatments can be used over distances exceeding 3,000 miles.

“Barriers to timely access to catheter-based, life-saving treatments for myocardial infarction and stroke still exist for many patients due to geography and a shortage of specialists,” Madder said in a press release. “The consequence of not meeting this need is that myocardial infarction and stroke victims in underserved areas often do not receive timely, state-of-the-art treatment and consequently can suffer higher mortality and worse outcomes.”