The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) appropriated $200 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a COVID-19 Telehealth Program. According to the FCC, the Program “will provide immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services until the program’s funds have been expended or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.” A summary of the healthcare provisions of the CARES Act can be found here.
Eligible healthcare providers are limited to nonprofit and/or public providers such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rural health clinics, local health departments, community health centers, medical schools, etc. The American Hospital Association has recently petitioned the FCC to expand eligibility to all healthcare providers regardless of for profit/nonprofit/public status.
The FCC has provided the following examples of services and devices purchased on or after March 13, 2020 that can be funded by the COVID-19 Telehealth Program:
- Telecommunications Services and Broadband Connectivity Services: Voice services, and Internet connectivity services for healthcare providers or their patients.
- Information Services: Remote patient monitoring platforms and services; patient reported outcome platforms; store and forward services, such as asynchronous transfer of patient images and data for interpretation by a physician; platforms and services to provide synchronous video consultation.
- Internet Connected Devices/Equipment: tablets, smart phones, or connected devices to receive connected care services at home (e.g., broadband enabled blood pressure monitors; pulse-ox) for patient or healthcare provider use; telemedicine kiosks/carts for healthcare provider site.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program can also be used to fund monthly telecommunication charges (e.g., broadband connectivity, remote patient monitoring services, etc.) incurred by eligible healthcare providers through September 30, 2020.
The application portal opened at 12:00 PM ET on Monday, April 13, 2020, and the FCC will be making grants on a rolling basis thereafter with up to $1 million in funding available per applicant.