AAFP to FCC: Rural telehealth should expand access to specialists

The American Academy of Family Physicians penned a letter Jan. 31 to the Federal Communications Commission advocating for the expansion of rural telehealth services.

John Meigs, MD, board chairman of AAFP, wrote the letter in response to a proposed rule the FCC issued Jan. 3 to increase funding for its telehealth-focused Rural Health Care Program, which provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care.

"The AAFP appreciates that in this proposed rule, the FCC suggests several steps to ensure that rural physicians and clinicians get the support they need while guarding against waste, fraud and abuse," the letter reads.

The AAFP encouraged the FCC to expand the use of telehealth services "within the context of appropriate standards of care," noting the agency should work to alleviate healthcare disparities driven by physician shortages in rural regions.

As an example, AAFP suggested a policy to support rural primary care physicians' abilities to secure telehealth consultations with remote specialists. This system would "support [the] provision of cost-effective, responsible longitudinal care," according to AAFP.

"On the contrary, policy which only supports the continuance or expansion of direct-to-consumer telehealth services would lead to care provided in silos, which can fracture care and increase total cost of care," the letter reads.

To access the AAFP's letter, click here.

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