FCC close to finalizing $100M telehealth pilot program

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The Federal Communications Commission will soon move to issue a final order for its new $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, which is intended to boost the use of telehealth for underserved patient populations.

In July, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requesting public comment on the initiative aimed at cost savings and improved patient outcomes associated with connected care.

Historically, the FCC’s programs have focused on connecting high-speed Internet services to brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities in rural parts of the United States. In fact, the FCC currently has two programs that provide about $600 million in annual support specifically dedicated to that objective.

However, the agency’s proposed Connected Care Pilot Program seeks to tap telehealth to enable connected care through remote patient monitoring and mobile health apps accessed by patients on smartphones or tablets—regardless of where they are located.

“If adopted, this new program would target support to connected care deployments that would benefit low-income patients, including those eligible for Medicaid or veterans receiving cost-free medical care,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the National Rural Health Association this week. “It would support a limited number of projects over a three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits, costs and savings associated with connected care.”

According to Carr, who came up with the idea for the Connected Care Pilot Program, limited trials to date by other organizations—such as the Veterans Health Administration—are showing significant cost savings and greatly improved patient outcomes from connected care technologies.

“We have been working with our sister agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as stakeholders in the healthcare community to develop an effective connected care program,” added Carr. “From chronic disease management to pediatric cardiology, from PTSD to opioid dependency, this pilot has the potential to make a real difference for low-income individuals that currently lack access to quality healthcare.”

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