AHA to FCC: 6 steps to improve rural healthcare with IT

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The Federal Communications Commission must update its Rural Health Care Program to account for the growing importance of broadband connectivity, according to the American Hospital Association.

AHA wrote a letter May 23 in response to the FCC's April 24 public request for comment on how to accelerate the adoption of broadband-enabled healthcare solutions.

"The need for access to healthcare is no less critical for rural Americans than for those living in urban areas," AHA wrote. "Yet, due to a variety of factors, from economic challenges to the sheer distance one must travel to reach a rural health care provider, obtaining access to care in rural America is a significant challenge."

To address this issue, AHA suggested six IT policy changes for FCC to enact.

1. FCC should improve funding for the Rural Health Care Program to account for healthcare providers' growing need for broadband connectivity.

2. FCC's Healthcare Connect Fund should raise its discount service to 85 percent. Under the current program, rural providers are eligible for a 65 percent discount on broadband-related expenses.

3. The Rural Health Care Program should update its list of expenses eligible for reimbursement by adding administrative costs related to consortium networks.

4. FCC should streamline the management of the Rural Health Care Program. The program currently suffers from limited IT infrastructure and systems for application processing, according to AHA

5. FCC should update the Rural Health Care Program's rules to cover remote patient monitoring as an eligible expense.

6. FCC should reconsider its definition of "rural area" to ensure healthcare providers in need of broadband infrastructure support are eligible for the commission's services.

Click here to view the full letter.

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