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FCC Approves Connected Care Pilot Program NoI

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The FCC approved a Notice of Inquiry today on creating a Universal Service Fund pilot program to promote the use of telehealth services among low-income Americans and veterans in rural areas. The proposal would establish a $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program,” which would be led by Commissioner Brendan Carr.

Telehealth services include remote patient monitoring technologies and mobile health applications that can be accessed on smartphones, tablets and other connected devices by patients in rural areas.

“Advances in mobile technology and applications mean that Americans can now get high-quality healthcare delivered directly to them, regardless of where they are located,” said Commissioner Carr. “With this new pilot program, the FCC is looking to support this trend in telehealth and ensure that even more communities get a fair shot at next-generation telehealth opportunities.”

The program has gathered support from a number of health professionals, including
Dr. Karen Rheuban, UVA Center for Telehealth, who encouraged the FCC to align its initiative with the Veteran’s Health Administration and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Not surprisingly, support came from the American Telemedicine Association, which tweeted, “We’re proud to support this pilot program, which will help bridge the urban-rural healthcare gap. #TelehealthForward”

Support also came from American Hospital Association, American Agri-Women and National Grange, as well as from Congress.

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer said, “I welcome the new telehealth initiative from the FCC. This program would increase Nebraskans’ access to connected health care services and life-saving technologies. Better telehealth connectivity will improve follow-up care and enhance doctors’ ability to monitor patients outside of the hospital.”