The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to move forward with plans to develop a three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program aimed at supporting telehealth services and remote patient-monitoring with hopes of improving healthcare access to underserved populations.
The adopted notice of proposed rulemaking calls for the public to comment on testing of the new program by using the FCC’s existing Rural Health Care Program authority, helping combat internet costs and access services necessary in providing connected care to veterans and low-income patients. The FCC also is seeking public comment on the appropriate budget, duration and structure of the pilot as well as other issues such as:
Who should be eligible to participate, including the types of eligible healthcare providers and broadband service providers
Limiting the pilot program to healthcare providers in areas of a healthcare professional shortage or lower-income residents
Targeting support towards tribal lands, veteran populations and rural areas with documented healthcare disparities
Targeting support towards health conditions that have risen to crisis levels or significantly affected numbers of Americans, such as opioid dependency, heart disease, mental health conditions, diabetes and high-risk pregnancy
Unlike the existing Rural Health Care Program, this proposed pilot focuses on connecting patients with healthcare services directly and outside of a hospital.
The proposed pilot will also be separately funded as to “have no impact on the budgets of the four existing Universal Service Programs—Lifeline, Rural Health Care, E-Rate and High-Cost (rural broadband support),” according to the FCC.
“We are proposing to allow eligible healthcare providers to obtain up to 85% of the costs of the broadband needed to provide remote patient monitoring and similar connected care technologies to their patients,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in a written statement. “The program would support a limited number of projects over a three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits, costs and savings associated with connected care.”