Promoting Telehealth to Low-Income Consumers; COVID-19 Telehealth Program

In this report, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau analyzes how the Connected Care Pilot Program and the COVID-19 Telehealth Program impacted healthcare providers’ use of telehealth services. Telehealth took on an increasingly critical role in healthcare delivery during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Additionally, advances in technology and broadband connectivity are transforming healthcare from a service delivered solely through traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities to include connected care options delivered via a broadband Internet access connection directly to the patient’s home or mobile location. As a result, since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring of 2020, many healthcare providers expanded their telehealth options or began offering telehealth for the first time. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program enabled healthcare providers to continue offering necessary care throughout the pandemic, and the ongoing Connected Care Pilot Program has increased participation in telehealth and improved healthcare outcomes. In considering whether and how to build on these programs, the FCC may want to consider a few general takeaways from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Pilot Program. First, telehealth has become an invaluable component of health care. Additionally, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program appears to have generally been more attractive to applicants than the Pilot Program because it provided a more expansive definition of eligible services, which included reimbursement for connected devices, and offered 100% reimbursement for eligible devices and services. Next, it appears that some Pilot Program selectees underestimated the difficulty in implementing telehealth services in certain areas by not accounting for the resources necessary to educate patients who were unfamiliar with telehealth on how to use it.

WCB Releases Interim Report on Connected Care and COVID-19 Telehealth