FCC announces first hospitals to win COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday announced the first half-dozen awardees of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

Health systems in hard-hit states such as Louisiana, New York and Ohio have been approved for a total of $3.23 million, so far, of the $200 million program.

The money was earmarked by Congress, part of the recent CARES Act, to help FCC to support the expansion of telehealth services during the coronavirus crisis.

FCC began accepting applications on April 13 and will be evaluating applications and distributing more money on a rolling basis until the funds are depleted. Here’s how hospitals can apply.

The first round of winners are:

  • Grady Memorial Hospital – Atlanta. It was awarded $727,747 to be used for video visits, virtual check-ins, remote patient monitoring and in-hospital e-visits, with the aim of reducing the use of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
  • Hudson River HealthCare – Peekskill, New York. It will use $753,367 to expand its frontline COVID-19 testing and treatment programs, which FCC notes serve a large volume of low-income, uninsured, and/or underinsured patients in the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.
  • Mount Sinai Health System – New York City. The $312,500 from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will provide connected devices and services to high-risk geriatric and palliative patients across the five boroughs of NYC.
  • Neighborhood Health Care – Cleveland. Its $244,282 will go toward connected devices and remote patient monitoring tools to help patients and families impacted by COVID-19 in the Cleveland’s West Side neighborhoods, especially low-income patients with chronic conditions.
  • Ochsner Clinic Foundation – New Orleans. It was awarded $1,000,000 to deploy wider telehealth services and distributed connected devices to high-risk patients and vulnerable populations to help slow the spread of the virus in both Louisiana and Mississippi. 
  • UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh. It will use $192,500 to roll out telehealth services for children whose organ transplants have made them immunocompromised and at high risk for COVID-19.

Beyond funding opportunities such as this one, there has been an array of new rules related to telehealth funding, reimbursement and regulation by federal agencies, designed to broaden the use of virtual care and remote monitoring for COVID-19 as health systems deal with a surge of patients and front line clinicians are put at risk by limited supplies of personal protective equipment.

While many hospitals and practices are experienced with at least limited telehealth implementations, many are deploying it for the first time. They can learn more from AMA’s best practices for telehealth deployments. See also, our ongoing listing of some of the myriad vendors now offering telehealth services.

“Telehealth has emerged as a critical service for health care providers and patients alike during the coronavirus pandemic,” said FCC Chairman Pai, in a statement. “It promotes social distancing, protects the safety of health care professionals and patients and frees up space in health care facilities for those who now need it most.”

He added that, “going forward, we will continue processing funding requests as quickly as we can in order to promote worthy telehealth projects across the country during this national emergency.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

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