Connected Care Pilot Program Update

Allie Clark  |  July 12, 2019  |  Telemedicine News, Access to Care, Rural Healthcare

Telehealth has the potential to be a game-changer in the lives of low-income and rural Americans, for whom access to care is at a crisis level. Unfortunately, accessing the technology necessary for telehealth, which is so much a part of everyday life for most, can be equally as out-of-reach for them as well. 

To address that very problem, as we originally shared for Rural Health Month in 2018, the FCC has been tasked with establishing a program that will bring access to telehealth to consumers in low-income and rural areas. What followed was a pilot program with a budget of $100 million that will be poured into broadband expansion to entire communities, not only healthcare facilities, as has been done historically. Nearly a year later, the FCC held a vote during its July 10th meeting and unanimously approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the program. 

This news has been publicly supported by a number of notable agencies, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Technology (AEHIT), who wrote a letter to the FCC endorsing and providing feedback on the agency’s plan to move forward on implementing the program. Also among its supporters is Public Knowledge, a Washington-based, non-profit, Internet freedom activism group, who issued a press release “[applauding] the FCC for taking this step to learn more about how to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for vulnerable communities and areas with shortages of healthcare providers.”

Now that the vote has passed, the FCC is set to move forward with the next stage in implementing the program, which is “to seek public comment on what kinds of healthcare and broadband service providers should be eligible for the program, as well as what goals and metrics the program should set and how the agency should gather data during the program” Modern Healthcare reported. From the start this project aimed to specifically target tribal and veteran communities as well as rural. However, questions still remain about where the $100 million budget will come from, as this pilot has never been intended to be included with the rest of the Universal Service Fund Programs; in fact, it was created, in part, to address areas where those existing programs were not meeting the needs of these underserved communities. 

The more widely available telehealth services are, the closer we move towards a society where healthcare is truly “wellcare”, which can only benefit us all.

For further details, you can view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the News Release from the Federal Communications Commission.

For more information and resources on pricing and policy, browse through our library at simplevisit.com/resources or call a SimpleVisit telemedicine consultant at 877.83.VISIT (84748).

Allie Clark

Allie is the Industry Analyst and Content Manager for SimpleVisit. Her educational background is diverse with Administrative Medical Assisting and Psychology as a focus, with a dash of Business Communication and Theater. Events in her life have led to a passion for improving access to healthcare and a particular talent for research, which she is quickly turning into a career. Allie is able to use her combined experience to write and develop resources for SimpleVisit, and is fulfilled by the opportunity to contribute to innovation and progress in the healthcare industry as a whole.

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