More than a year after the Federal Communications Commission created the $400 million annual Healthcare Connect Fund to create and expand telemedicine networks nationwide, the FCC is struggling to attract providers to take advantage of the broadband subsidy. Matthew Quinn, the FCC's Director of Healthcare Initiatives, told a HIMSS14 audience that the fund is "underutilized" despite the commission's efforts to simplify the application process. According to an FCC spokesman, the program disbursed $159 million in 2013.
Ironically, the Healthcare Connect Fund was an attempt to reform, expand, and modernize the underutilized Rural Health Care Program. Last summer, the FCC began accepting applications for the Healthcare Connect Fund with the expectation of bringing thousands of new providers across the country into the program, and allowing thousands more to upgrade their network connections, in order to share in the benefits of connectivity and dramatically cut costs for hospitals and the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes the deployment of communications infrastructure in rural and high-cost areas.
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