The Federal Communications Commission intends to create a new $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program supporting the use of telemedicine solutions for low-income and rural Americans, as well as veterans, in order to improve health outcomes, reduce costs and increase access to healthcare.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) made the announcement in an op-ed published on Wednesday in a Jackson, Miss., newspaper.
“Telemedicine is no longer just about enabling connectivity among traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities,” Carr and Wicker wrote in The Clarion-Ledger. “The trend is towards connected care everywhere. Remote patient monitoring and mobile health applications that Americans can access on their smartphones or tablets while at home or work are part of a new and seamless way of delivering cost-effective, direct-to-consumer healthcare.”
The FCC will vote on a Notice of Inquiry at its August 2 Open Commission Meeting in Washington seeking comment on the following aspects of the program:
- Budgeting $100 million in the Universal Service Fund, established by Congress to provide support for both telecommunications and advanced information services for eligible providers in rural communities to enable telemedicine, transmit health records and conduct other telehealth activities.
- Supporting connected care deployments that would benefit low-income patients, including those eligible for Medicaid or veterans receiving free medical care.
- Establishing a limited number of projects over a two- or three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits, costs and savings associated with connected care deployments.
Last month, the FCC voted in favor of a proposal by Chairman Ajit Pai to increase the annual cap from $400 million to $571 million for the Rural Health Care Program, which provides telecommunications and broadband services to rural communities supporting telemedicine.
Likewise, the FCC’s proposed Connected Care Pilot Program is envisioned as an initiative to support telehealth for low-income Americans, especially those living in rural areas.
Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT|The App Association, praised efforts by the FCC to bring the benefits of broadband-enabled healthcare to patients and caregivers throughout the continuum of care.
“We strongly support the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to establish the Connected Care Pilot Program,” said Reed in a statement. “This $100 million program is a boon for the millions of Americans living without reliable access to healthcare and the American businesses driving effective, innovative telehealth solutions. We have long been a vocal advocate of connected health and the vital importance of connectivity—without access to broadband, the personalized care, expedited diagnoses, lowered healthcare costs and countless cost-saving, life-saving benefits of telehealth would be utterly impossible.”
According to FCC Commissioner Carr and Senator Wicker, investments in connected care have resulted in substantial savings, particularly in the management of chronic diseases. They point to cost savings from a Mississippi pilot with diabetics as part of public-private partnership between critical access hospital North Sunflower Medical Center, telecommunications provider C Spire, technology partner Care Innovations, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, the Office of the Governor of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“If just 20 percent of the state’s diabetic population were to enroll in this type of remote patient monitoring, Medicaid savings for Mississippi could be $189 million per year,” conclude Carr and Wicker. “We look forward to launching the Connected Care Pilot Program and seeing positive results for patients across the country.”
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