FCC to vote next month on $100M telehealth pilot program
The Federal Communications Commission will vote at its July 10 meeting to advance a new $100 million pilot program.
The new initiative is intended to boost the use of telehealth for low-income and rural Americans.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr made the announcement regarding the proposed Connected Care Pilot Program—targeted at those living in rural areas and veterans—on Wednesday during a visit to a community health clinic in Laurel Fork, Va.
“With advances in telemedicine, healthcare is no longer limited to the confines of traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities,” Carr said. “With an Internet connection, patients can now access high-quality care right on their smartphones, tablets or other devices, regardless of where they are located. I think the FCC should support this new trend towards connected care, which is the healthcare equivalent of moving from Blockbuster to Netflix.”
The proposed Connected Care Pilot would provide Universal Service Fund (USF) support to healthcare providers to defray the costs of broadband service to enable low-income patients and veterans to access telehealth services. USF is a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees managed by the FCC to promote universal access to telecommunication services in the United States.
At its July Open Commission Meeting, the FCC will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on:
- Budgeting for $100 million in USF support for providers to offset the qualifying costs of connected care services for low-income patients, including people in medically underserved areas and veterans.
- Targeting support for innovative pilot projects to respond to a variety of health challenges, including diabetes management, opioid dependency, high-risk pregnancies, pediatric heart disease and cancer.
- Providing an 85 percent discount on qualifying services for a three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits costs, and savings associated with connected care technologies.
- Collecting relevant data to enable stakeholders to better understand the impact of telehealth and consider broader reforms that can support the trend toward connected care.
The Connected Care Pilot Program—which is the brainchild of Carr—is meant to improve health outcomes and reduce costs by creating a “model for the adoption of connected care technologies and bridging the doctor divide in rural America,” he added.