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To help combat the crippling effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis on doctors and medical staff, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has developed and approved a $200 million program to fund telehealth services and devices for medical providers. The new COVID-19 Telehealth Program comes as a result of the CARES Act, signed into law last week.

“The toll this pandemic is taking on our healthcare system is clear. To the extent that connectivity solutions can provide immediate assistance with remote care and monitoring, we should use them,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

As reflected by the FCC’s action on the issue, the coronavirus crisis has brought rapid changes to the government’s stance towards telemedicine. HIPAA security standards have been relaxed, and many states have changed licensing requirements to make it easier for out-of-state doctors to practice.

Both states and the federal government will likely continue to reevaluate their current regulations and restrictions on telemedicine. This may potentially impact both the health care sector and the technology companies that facilitate virtual care.

Funds to move past existing telehealth challenges

The FCC’s telehealth initiative is aimed at mitigating some of the common roadblocks to implementing a successful telehealth program. Under the new initiative, hospitals and other health centers may apply for up to $1 million to cover the cost of telecommunications and broadband connectivity, as well as new devices, services and personnel.

Expanding telehealth services should allow providers to safely care for patients with other conditions who would risk contracting the coronavirus if they had to visit a healthcare provider.

A second pilot program connects those most in need

The FCC also authorized a second $100 million program known as the Connected Care Pilot Program. This longer-term project will study how connected care components can be utilized to provide telehealth services to individuals in their homes, particularly veterans or those living in low-income areas. The pilot program will cover 85% of costs for broadband connectivity, equipment and information services.

Our team will continue to share the latest developments and provide insights on the spread of coronavirus and its impact across sectors.