Patient Care

URMC Announces First-of-its-Kind Alliance to Expand Health Care Access to Rural Communities

Feb. 5, 2024
Initiative aims to close the care gap through telemedicine stations at Five Star Bank branches.
Higi station photo 1

The University of Rochester Medical Center has announced a first-of-its-kind initiative to improve health care access and wellness outcomes in rural communities in Upstate New York through the distribution of telehealth stations conveniently located at local bank branches. Woven into the fabric of rural towns, banks offer the ideal physical location to bridge the geographic divide between patients and providers, offering a vital touchpoint to reach an underserved population.

To deliver care in a new way, the URMC initiative unites multiple partners, including Five Star Bank, the wholly owned community bank subsidiary of Financial Institutions, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISI); Higi, a consumer health engagement company and a service of Modivcare (NASDAQ: MODV); DexCare, Inc., a patient demand and care access platform; and Verizon Business.

“This unique service is possible only because of the generous partners that banded together with a single, honorable mission: to improve the health of rural communities,” said URMC Chief Digital Health Officer Michael Hasselberg, Ph.D.

“Our capability to bring virtual care to patients went mainstream when needs arose during the pandemic,” Hasselberg said. “This pilot is the next evolution, bringing telemedicine to those who may lack access to technology at home. They now can visit a trusted location in their community and get the care they need, as well as check key health indicators to promote preventive care.”

The initiative is the first time a health system and a financial institution have partnered to provide telemedicine-equipped health stations to rural communities.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with such innovative and forward-thinking organizations as we work together to address what we see as a clear link between financial and physical well-being,” said Five Star Bank President and CEO Martin K. Birmingham. “As a community bank serving much of Western and Central New York, we understand the unique challenges our rural communities face. We also appreciate the transformative role technology can play and believe this pilot has the potential to meaningfully improve the long-term health of our overall region.”

“Local banks and health care providers are trusted institutions – bringing them together to reach more people and to deliver more care is essential to creating healthier communities,” said Derek Streat, CEO of DexCare. “A digital visit is a building block for patients to regain control of their wellness, and an opportunity for health systems to expand their footprint to deliver more care and services.” 

Americans living in rural regions experience significant health disparities, due in part to limited access to health care. They are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease than those living in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

No.2  _STK_Higi Station_Next Gen

This pilot initiative will serve three rural communities – all with limited health care providers and where many residents lack broadband home internet. Higi Telehealth-Enabled Smart Health Stations, which measure key health indicators including risk for high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke, are installed in private, enclosed spaces in three Five Star Bank branches. The health stations allow users to connect with UR Medicine providers through virtual appointments facilitated by DexCare’s virtual on-demand platform and connected to the internet by Verizon’s fixed wireless access (FWA).

“We’re honored to partner with organizations who have made it their priority to better health outcomes for those who are often left behind” said Jeff Bennett, Modivcare’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. “Health begins in the community, and the ability to leverage Higi’s technology to deliver a more accessible, seamless experience, is core to our mission. This special coalition has been able to bring a powerful set of assets to deliver a seamless experience for the consumer and provider. It is truly an incredible opportunity to change the way the Finger Lakes Region accesses virtual care.”

With 15 percent of the U.S. population living in rural areas and more than 10 percent living in poverty, modernizing where, when, and how care is accessed is critical to improving long-term health care outcomes. Within the Finger Lakes Region of New York, which this initiative serves, analysis of New York State Department of Health data by Common Ground Health suggests lower socioeconomic status is the leading driver of health inequities, resulting in nearly 20,000 years of potential life lost in the region annually.

“We’re thrilled to work with such innovative players in the healthcare space providing the connectivity that helps bridge the digital divide and bring equitable care to underserved communities,” said Gary Lynch, Global Practice Lead & CTO for Healthcare, Insurance and Life Sciences, Verizon Business.

For this pilot, the health stations are located in private, enclosed spaces at select Five Star Bank branch locations in Seneca and Steuben counties:

  • 323 West Washington Street, Bath, NY 14810
  • 2168 North Street, NY-96A, Ovid, NY 14521
  • 1 South Main Street, Wayland, NY 14572

In addition to support from Five Star Bank, Higi, DexCare, and Verizon Business, the pilot received funding from the New York State Health Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

More information about this innovative initiative is available at