FCC Seeks Comment on Proposed $100M Telehealth Pilot Program

Samara Rosenfeld
JULY 11, 2019
telemedicine

Telehealth services could be more easily accessible to low-income patients and veterans with the help of a three year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program proposed by the Federal Communications Commission, which the agency is now seeking public comment on.
 
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr initially announced that the agency would establish the program last July.
 
“This new program will aim to reduce healthcare costs and spending by supporting technologies to connect patients and caregivers over the internet, particularly in rural and low-income communities,” Carr and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker wrote in an op-ed piece in the Clarion Ledger.
 
The Connected Care Pilot program would provide an 85% discount on connectivity for broadband-enabled telehealth services. The services would directly connect patients with their doctors and can be used to treat a variety of health conditions.
 
In June, Carr announced at an event in Laurel Fork, Virginia, that the FCC would vote to advance the program at its July meeting.
 
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) now seeks comment on testing the program to defray the costs of purchasing broadband Internet access service needed to provide telehealth services directly to underserved populations.
 
“Given the significant cost savings and improved patient outcomes associated with connected care, we should align public policy in support of this movement in telehealth,” they wrote.
 
The public can also comment about other issues, including:
  • Who should be eligible to participate in the pilot.
  • Limiting the pilot to providers in areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals or with lower-income residents.
  • Targeting support toward rural areas, veteran populations or tribal lands.
  • Targeting support toward health conditions that have become crises, such as opioid dependency, diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions and high-risk pregnancy. 
“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,” Carr and Wicker wrote.

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