CHI and UK hospitals’ projects approved by FCC, increase telehealth capabilities

WASHINGTON (WTVQ/Press Release) – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a Report and Order providing further guidance on the administration of its $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, including guidance on eligible services, competitive bidding, invoicing and data reporting for selected participants, which will allow applicants selected for the Pilot Program to begin their projects.

Additionally, the FCC has voted to approve 36 additional Pilot projects for a total of more than $31 million in funding.  The newly selected Pilot projects join an initial set of 23 projects approved earlier this year, bringing the total to over $57 million in funding for 59 pilot projects serving patients in 30 states plus Washington, DC.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare patients’ telehealth activity went up from 15,000 beneficiaries a week pre-pandemic, to 24.5 million beneficiaries receiving a telehealth services between mid-March and mid-October 2020.

The Pilot Program will make available up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund over a three-year period for selected Pilot projects to help defray the costs of providing certain telehealth services for eligible health care providers, with a particular focus on providing connected care services to low-income and veteran patients.

The FCC’s action allows Pilot Program participants to start their projects.  It also provides guidance on eligible services, including clarification on the eligibility of certain network equipment.  Along with this, the order provides details about the competitive bidding process, requesting funding, receiving funding commitments, making changes to projects and seeking reimbursement through submitting invoices.

One of the projects that received the green light was Catholic Health Initiative’s (CHI) Pilot project. It will use $6,183,189 in Connected Care support to provide patient-based, internet-connected remote monitoring, video visits and remote treatment to vulnerable populations, especially low-income rural residents in Medically Underserved Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas for Primary Care.  Through strengthened and expanded broadband connectivity, Catholic Health Initiatives’ Pilot project would treat patients suffering from chronic or infectious disease, and will serve an estimated 3,000 patients, 90% of whom lack adequate broadband access, across 36 rural sites in Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota.  Catholic Health Initiatives was chosen for its plan to offer new connectivity options to its rural patients and thereby improve chronic care management and reduce readmissions.

University of Kentucky Healthcare will also be able to start its Pilot project. Using $998,466 in Connected Care support, the plan is to provide patient broadband connectivity to low-income patients in rural Kentucky suffering from cancer. By providing patients with access to consistent broadband internet access service, University of Kentucky Healthcare’s Pilot project will use connected care services such as remote patient monitoring, video visits or consults and remote treatment, to improve cancer treatment and compliance with treatment plans.  The University of Kentucky’s Pilot project would serve an estimated 1,323 patients, 23% of whom are low-income.  The University of Kentucky’s Pilot project was selected because of the state’s high burden of cancer patients and low broadband adoption.

To learn more about the FCC’s Connected Care Pilot Program, visit https://www.fcc.gov/wireline-competition/telecommunications-access-policy-division/connected-care-pilot-program.

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