FCC plans $100m telehealth pilot programme
July 23, 2019
The US government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is establishing a three-year, $100m connected care pilot programme to bring telehealth services directly to low-income patients and veterans.
The proposed pilot would provide an 85% discount on connectivity for broadband-enabled telehealth services that connect patients directly to their doctors and are used to treat a wide range of health conditions. These services can facilitate the effective treatment of chronic conditions outside of the doctor’s office, at significant savings for patients and health care providers.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) adopted by the commission seeks comment on testing a new programme, using the FCC’s existing rural health care programme authority that would defray the costs of purchasing broadband internet access service necessary for providing connected care services directly to low-income patients and veterans.
The NPRM seeks comment on the appropriate budget, duration and structure of the pilot, along with other issues, including:
- Funding the pilot programme separately so it would have no impact on the budgets of the four existing universal service programmes – lifeline, rural health care, e-rate, and high-cost (rural broadband support)
- Eligibility to participate in the pilot, including the types of eligible health care providers and broadband service providers
- Limiting the pilot programme to health care providers serving areas with a shortage of health care professionals or with lower-income residents
- Targeting support towards tribal lands, rural areas and veteran populations, for which there are well-documented health care disparities
- Targeting support towards health conditions that have risen to crisis levels or affect significant numbers of Americans, such as opioid dependency, diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions and high-risk pregnancy
“We propose a three-year, $100m connected care pilot programme within the universal service fund to help connect patients – especially veterans and low-income families –directly with their doctors using broadband technologies,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai. “If adopted, this pilot programme could provide health care providers with funding needed to purchase the communications services that will support their connected care efforts and provide valuable data as we consider future policy initiatives.”