How the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Other Funding Sources Can Help Build a Telemedicine Solution Ready for Today and Tomorrow
Telemedicine, which until recently served mostly as an adjunct to in-person visits for some applications, is rapidly becoming a primary means of delivering patient care in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing.
As with many technologies seemingly on their way to the mainstream but not quite there yet, SARS-CoV-2 is accelerating the widespread acceptance and adoption of telemedicine.
Providers who have the capability already are working feverishly to augment systems strained by a huge increase in demand. Many who don’t have the capability are racing to put it in place.
It wouldn’t have been easy even before the novel coronavirus. Apart from the technical and logistical challenges of getting sophisticated technology in place to see patients remotely, there’s also the matter of paying for necessary hardware, software, and services in a time when revenues are down for many providers.
To help with the associated financial issues, $200 million in funds have been made available by the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, part of the $2 trillion CARES Act. Under this program, eligible nonprofit and public providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for full funding of systems enabling them to deliver critical connected care. Funds are available until exhausted or until the crisis ends. For more information and a link to the FCC’s application for funding, visit fcc.gov/covid-19-telehealth-program.
Emergency needs and funding aside, though, there’s the longer term to consider.
An Ongoing Funding Strategy for Technology That’s Here to Stay
Whether building out an existing system or starting from scratch, it’s important for providers to take the long view with regard to technology that was already, albeit gradually, on its way to becoming a key part of the healthcare infrastructure.
What’s a necessity today is likely to become a care delivery method of choice after the current crisis passes. Part of this accelerated shift will be due to continuing reticence on the part of patients and providers with regard to face-to-face encounters where not absolutely necessary. But there’s also the likelihood of future zoonotic and other pathogens coupled with the need to be prepared with an easily scalable solution when they inevitably arise.
In addition to leveraging available emergency funding for critical telemedicine systems, providers should consider a longer-term funding solution with the flexibility to handle the myriad tangible and intangible elements of the technology, as well as the need to adjust system capacity and focus in an agile way that supports seamless patient care and improved outcomes.
It’s also important to work with a funding provider that deeply understands telemedicine and other technologies not just discretely but also as part of a wider – and very complex – technology ecosystem operating in a rapidly evolving marketplace. In this there’s really no substitute for experience, and that experience can be essential to building the system your facility needs from both operational and fiscal standpoints.
Thanks to all healthcare professionals for everything you do to keep the rest of us safe and healthy. When you’re ready to explore funding options for telemedicine, please get in touch with the healthcare finance team at LEAF, where we leverage years of experience funding telemedicine programs and projects to help providers flexibly and affordably acquire the technology they need to deliver a consistently high standard of care in an unpredictable world.