The FCC will vote July 10 on issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program that will support telehealth. The announcement was made by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr during a visit to a community health clinic in Laurel Fork, VA.

In his comments, Carr pointed to veterans and low-income Americans as groups that will benefit if the monies are awarded. “With advances in telemedicine, health care is no longer limited to the confines of traditional brick and mortar health care facilities,” Carr said, according to a press release. “With an Internet connection, patients can now access high-quality care right on their smartphones, tablets, or other devices regardless of where they are located. I think the FCC should support this new trend towards connected care, which is the healthcare equivalent of moving from Blockbuster to Netflix.”

The NPRM will focus on four main points:

  • Budgeting for $100 million in USF support for health care providers to defray the qualifying costs of connected care services for low-income patients, including people in medically underserved areas and veterans.
  • Targeting support for innovative pilot projects to respond to a variety of health challenges, including diabetes management, opioid dependency, high-risk pregnancies, pediatric heart disease, and cancer.
  • Providing an 85% discount on qualifying services for a three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits, costs, and savings associated with connected care technologies.
  • Collecting relevant data to enable stakeholders to better understand the impact of telehealth and consider broader reforms that can support the trend toward connected care.

The press release points out that connected care reduces the cost of managing chronic diseases, which accounts for more than 85% of direct health care spending in the United States. It points to a trial in the Mississippi Delta that saved almost $700,000 in hospital re-admissions. Such an initiative could lead to Medicare savings of about $189 million in the state if 20% of the state’s diabetic patients were enrolled, according to the FCC.

The release also noted significant savings by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and an unnamed telehealth project in the northeast. All told, analysts estimate that telehealth could save $305 billion annually.

The potential also is good from the consumer side: Reductions were noted in all-cause mortality, length of in-patient care, hospital admissions and ER visits.

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