AHA voices support for $100M FCC telehealth pilot program

A national hospital organization has voiced its support for a new $100 million Federal Communications Commission pilot program meant to boost the use of telehealth for low-income and rural Americans.

The American Hospital Association on Monday sent a comment letter to the FCC supporting its proposed Connected Care Pilot Program, calling the initiative a “critical next step towards delivering affordable telehealth services to those Americans who need it the most.”

Last month, the FCC unanimously approved the program, which was proposed by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in order to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

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Female doctor in her surgery office with headset in front of her laptop, an x-ray of a foot in hand, talking with a senior patient, telemedicine concept

Also See: FCC approves $100M Connected Care Pilot Program

“Telehealth solutions have been shown to significantly improve health outcomes and lower overall healthcare system costs,” states AHA’s letter to the FCC. “In particular, telehealth connects patients to vital healthcare services through video conferencing, remote monitoring, electronic consults and wireless communications.”

According to the AHA, 65 percent of U.S. hospitals have fully implemented telehealth in at least one unit—up from 55 percent in 2014—and more than 50 percent have implemented remote patient monitoring capabilities.

The AHA responded to the FCC’s request for public input on the goals and design of the Connected Care Pilot Program. Specifically, the hospital association recommended that the agency explore how the pilot program “can support costs for remote patient monitoring, including the cost of equipment, as an eligible expense.”

In addition, the AHA advised the FCC to not impose unnecessary administrative burdens and barriers to participation in the program, identify realistic metrics to measure program success, not impose additional patient privacy requirements on program participants beyond HIPAA, receive adequate funding, as well as incentivize community-focused projects.

“Successful telehealth projects that work for all members of a community depend on multiple factors, including: sufficient healthcare provider connectivity; sufficient connectivity for remote patients; patient access to equipment and services necessary for telehealth; and ensuring the ability of low-income patients to afford access to broadband connectivity, equipment and services,” states AHA’s letter.

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