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One step toward improving the health of the United States involves the use of telehealth and telemedicine. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is making $400 million available annually to expand broadband telehealth networks from pilot to permanent programs. Funding for the pilot programs has led to the establishment of 50 provider healthcare networks in 38 states.
The telehealth system was developed as an effective way to link urban medical centers and rural clinics as well as to provide instant access to electronic health records. Funding is aimed at improving connectivity for existing providers and will allow new providers to become a part of broadband networks. Successful pilot programs are encouraged to seek funding to improve existing connections.
The Healthcare Connect Fund stems from the Rural Healthcare pilot program. The fund is designed to allow hospitals and clinics across the country access to specialists at major health centers using telemedicine and the exchange of electronic health records. These strategies allow for better care coordination and lowered costs. The program also encourages the development of state and regional healthcare consortia. The FCC plans to offer a 65% discount on broadband services, equipment, and connections to cost-effective research and education networks and to provider-constructed and owned facilities. Healthcare providers will contribute 35% of their costs.
Eligible organizations include not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers, health centers for migrants, community mental health centers, local health departments or agencies, postsecondary educational institutions, teaching hospitals, medical schools, or a consortia of the above. Nonrural providers seeking funding can enter into a consortium with a rural focus. Grant applications will be accepted in later summer of 2013.
Also, the FCC plans to launch a pilot program in 2014 to determine the best ways to promote broadband connectivity for skilled nursing facilities. The Skilled Nursing Facilities Pilot Program will offer up to $650 million over a 3-year period. Because the focus is on skilled nursing, nurses and nursing faculty should be closely involved with these efforts.
Source: Mosquera M. FCC gives telehealth $400 M boost: broadband networks to provide better access to health care. January 10, 2013. Healthc IT News. Available at http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/fda-gives-telehealth-400m-boost. Accessed January 10, 2013.
Submitted by: Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, News Editor at NENewsEditor@gmail.com.