The FCC, only a week or so after the funding was revealed, has created and approved a $200 million plan to fund Telehealth services and tools for medical providers. Hospitals and other health care providers may apply for up to $1 million to cover the cost of new equipment, facilities, and personnel.
The unparalleled CARES $2 trillion Act involves massive spending on all manner of issues, from direct grants to out-of-work people to airline and other big business bailouts. Among the many financing items, there was a $200 million allocated to the FCC which instructed it to develop and subsidize Telehealth services across the country.
Telehealth provides multiple facilities, from anything as easy as making online appointments to using internet-connected tracking tools, to performing a complete primary care visit via video chatting. The latter is an extremely valuable choice for doctors and nurses who, if possible, not only need to avoid direct interaction with potentially ill patients but need every spare minute they can gather as well.
“The impact this pandemic has on our health-care system is evident. In the degree that networking systems can offer remote care and control assistance instantly, we should be using them. There is already confirmation nationally that this works, “Commissioner Jessica said in a statement accompanying the order.
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Unfortunately, Telehealth systems are by no way simple or quick to introduce, because they must not only meet extremely stringent standards for privacy, such as HIPAA but still be convenient to use for people who do not use video chat for any other purposes. In the best of times, setting aside space, facilities, budget, etc. for Telehealth operations is challenging and time-consuming, let alone when care centers are overloaded and understaffed. Also, hospitals offering certain Telehealth services are likely to find demand far exceeding supply at the moment.
The $200 million FCC plan aims to reduce this as soon as possible and as easily as possible. “These days I’m hard-pressed to think of any better use case for the agency’s mission to advance communication than telemedicine,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.
Any given organization can receive funding of up to $1 million, depending on the need and scope. Priority is given to areas that are especially hard hit by the virus and locations that are chronically underfunded, such as clinics in disadvantaged communities that subsist on Medicare payments, etc.