The FCC is seeking to establish a $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support telehealth for low income Americans. The FCC connected care pilot program will be a focus on rural residents and veterans.

The announcement was made in an op-ed with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker.

FCC Connected Care Pilot Program
“We’re seeing a trend in telehealth towards connected care everywhere,” Carr said in a press release. “The FCC has long supported the deployment of broadband to healthcare facilities, but advances in technology mean that high-tech, life-saving services are no longer limited to the confines of connected, brick-and-mortar facilities. I saw this firsthand when I visited Mississippi six months ago and learned about a remote patient monitoring trial that improved outcomes for diabetes patients living in the rural Mississippi Delta. Since then, my office has been meeting with experts in this field, visiting rural health care facilities, and working to see how the FCC can support this movement towards connected care.”

A Notice of Inquiry that will be voted on at the FCC’s August Open Meeting seeking comment on the use of $100 million in Universal Services Fund support toward the program, which will target low-income patients including those eligible for Medicaid or veterans receiving cost-free medical care. The FCC aims to establish two- or three-year projects with controls to measure and verify benefits, costs and savings.

Investments in chronic care management have resulted in significant savings, advocates note:

  • The Mississippi Delta trial resulted in nearly $700,000 in annual savings due to reductions in hospital re-admissions alone. Assuming just 20% of Mississippi’s diabetic population enrolled in this program, Medicaid savings in the state would be $189 million per year.
  • The Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) remote patient monitoring program cost $1,600 per patient compared to more than $13,000 per patient for VHA’s home-based primary services.
  • A telehealth project in the Northeastern U.S. found that every $1 spent on remote monitoring resulted in a $3.30 return in savings.

Connected care technologies are improving health outcomes for patients:

  • A study of 20 remote patient monitoring trials found a 20% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 15% reduction in heart failure-related hospitalizations
  • The VHA’s remote patient monitoring program resulted in a 25% reduction in days of inpatient care and a 19% reduction in hospital admission
  • One remote patient monitoring initiative showed a 46% reduction in ER visits, a 53% reduction in hospital admissions, and a 25% shorter length of stay

In May, the USF rural healthcare fund was set to increase its annual budget from $400 million to $571 million. The draft order with the increase had the support of the majority of FCC commissioners.