Funds to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes and publish research will establish an evidence base for future telehealth programs.
The Biden administration is investing more than $19 million to strengthen telehealth services in rural and underserved communities.
These investments are being distributed to 36 award recipients through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The funding expands telehealth innovation, including funds for incubators to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes and publish telehealth research that will establish an evidence base for future telehealth programs.
The funding will help build clinical networks, educational opportunities and trusted resources to further advance telehealth, said HRSA acting Administrator Diana Espinosa.
- Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program: Approximately $4.28 million is being awarded to nine health organizations to build sustainable tele-mentoring programs and networks in rural and medically underserved communities. The funding will help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.
- Telehealth Resource Centers: $4.55 million is being awarded to 12 regional and two national Telehealth Resource Centers. TRCs provide information, assistance and education on telehealth to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or want to provide telehealth services to patients. Each regional TRC will offer a wide range of assistance targeted at local community needs. The two national TRCs will provide expert resources on telehealth policy (such as reimbursement, licensing and privacy) and telehealth technology (such as equipment, cybersecurity and integration with other systems).
- Evidence-Based Direct to Consumer Telehealth Network Program: Approximately $3.85 million is being awarded to 11 organizations to help health networks increase access to telehealth services and to assess the effectiveness of telehealth care for patients, providers and payers. The EB TNP program will expand access to health services in primary care, acute care and behavioral healthcare.
- Telehealth Centers of Excellence Program: $6.5 million is being awarded to two organizations to assess telehealth strategies and services to improve health care in rural medically underserved areas that have high chronic disease prevalence and high poverty rates. The Telehealth COEs will be located in academic medical centers and will serve as telehealth incubators to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes and publish telehealth research. The COEs will establish an evidence base for telehealth programs and a framework for future telehealth programs.
THE LARGER TREND
Virtual care continues as a strong modality in healthcare, following a large spike in use during the height of the pandemic.
During the public health emergency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimbursed telehealth services in flexibilities not previously allowed.
Some of these flexibilities are expected to continue past the PHE, though the question of payment parity to an in-person visit has not yet been resolved.
HHS allowed for the use of telehealth in rural regions prior to the pandemic. In January, the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded $8 million to fund the Telehealth Broadband Pilot program to expand broadband capacity available to rural healthcare providers.
The Senate passed an infrastructure bill this month that includes $65 billion for broadband.
ON THE RECORD
“Telehealth is crucial to providing convenient and sustained care for patients,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This funding demonstrates the Biden-Harris administration’s strong commitment to expanding access to quality healthcare for everyone, including in rural and underserved communities. I will continue to support innovative solutions that will strengthen our healthcare system.”