FCC advances work on $100M telehealth pilot program

The Federal Communications Commission took another step toward establishing a new telehealth pilot program, which the agency has referred to as "experimental," by opening the project to public comment Aug. 2.

Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the FCC, revealed the agency's plan to establish the Connected Care Pilot Program in July. Under initial plans for the program, the FCC would budget $100 million to support a limited number of telehealth projects that promote healthcare services for low-income Americans and veterans in rural areas, which often lack infrastructure for affordable broadband.

"The Commission's top priority is bridging the digital divide, and nowhere is that more critical than in the area of healthcare," reads a news release from the FCC.

On Aug. 2, the FCC said it opened comments for public input on the plan, including advice for how to design the pilot program, recommendations on appropriate telehealth projects and suggestions on how to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Unlike the agency's existing Rural Health Care Program, which offers eligible healthcare providers funding for broadband and telecommunications services that boost telehealth projects inside the hospital setting, the Connected Care Pilot Program would promote telehealth services that connect patients to healthcare services outside the four walls of a healthcare facility.

"The FCC has long played a role in supporting broadband deployments to brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities," Mr. Carr said in an Aug. 2 statement. "I think we should explore whether we can support this new trend in telehealth as well."

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