FCC will vote next month on a $100 million telehealth initiative

The Federal Communications Commission will vote on July 10 to advance a $100 million telehealth initiative to boost funding for care programs that serve rural low-income Americans at home, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said this week at an event in rural Virginia.

The Connected Care Pilot Program would fund eligible health providers so they can obtain the broadband needed to provide remote patient monitoring and connected technologies to patients, Carr said. The three-year pilot will track costs, savings and outcomes, he said.

Unlike programs where rural patients must drive to brick-and-mortar health facilities to receive telehealth care from faraway providers and specialists, this pilot would support in-home access for broadband and connected remote monitoring technologies such as smartphones and tablets.

Remote patient monitoring programs are already making a difference for rural patients, Carr noted, including reductions in all-cause mortalities and heart failure-related hospitalizations, according to studies. Programs around the country have also saved money by reducing hospital readmissions and ER visits and cutting the length of hospital stays, he noted.

“Given the significant cost savings and improved patient outcomes associated with connected care, we should align public policy in support of this movement in telehealth,” Carr said in prepared remarks. “It’s the health care equivalent of moving from Blockbuster to Netflix.”

The FCC is seeking comment on whether the pilot should provide funding to cover up 85% of the costs of the patient connectivity needed for these pilots, Carr said. He invited providers working with rural patients to weigh in on this approach.

The Connected Care Pilot Program has been in the works for a while, and Carr announced it in July 2018.

More on the July 10 FCC Commission meeting can be found here.

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