The FCC Releases Guidelines for $200 Million
COVID-19 Telehealth Program
In a time when circumstances change almost by the hour, it seems like each day we are becoming more reliant on technology as we work from home, amp up our online shopping and depend on video chats to stay connected with colleagues and friends. The healthcare industry is no exception when it comes to implementing new technology systems into practice in order to sufficiently cater to all patients. During a crisis that limits our ability to go out in public, a quick stop to your local doctor’s office could do more harm than good, which is why the medical community and Federal Communications Commission is encouraging telehealth across the nation.
Telehealth refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services which essentially connects patients with doctor’s through the internet. Although telehealth has been around for a few years, recent updates to regulations and a surge for demand has made it the east way to get many different types of medical care while also making it the safest option right now in accordance to social distancing guidelines. Telehealth is more versatile than you might
think and is particularly suited to certain types of medical care, including general consultations with doctors, mental health care, follow-up appointments and even some specialties, like dermatology. It is also a normal occurrence for doctors to write prescriptions after a telemedicine visit, and the government is lifting some restrictions for prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis. On the other hand, certain tasks like vaccinations and taking samples will still need to be done in person.
The government recognizes the growing need of access to our healthcare providers which is why the FCC revealed a new $200 million program to help fund telehealth programs for qualifying providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the plan aims to grow telehealth on a large scale across the nation by
supplying telemedicine equipment, broadband connectivity, and other resources as we combat the coronavirus. The six-page document released by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau on April 8th lays out several steps a provider must take to apply for funding. They include receiving eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) for each provider site included in the application; obtaining an FCC registration number (FRN) in the Commission Registration System (CORES); and registering with the Federal System for Award Management.
Eligible providers who have purchased telecommunications and/or telemedicine equipment after March 13th can apply for funding supporting for those and any subsequent purchases. The FCC will soon make an online portal available for completing and submitting requests for funding. The web address and opening date for the portal will be posted on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Page.
Many of the adjustments for telehealth, including suspension of copays and certain regulations are temporary. But it may be hard for insurers and the government to pull back once patients become more used to using digital health care services. After all, even when the pandemic is long gone, who wouldn’t want the convenience of reaching a doctor from anywhere? We all might be healthier for it.