Health Information Technology
What happens when a prime time TV show becomes a potential healthcare policy direction, plus a side helping of broadband adoption strategy? An episode of the NBC TV medical melodrama New Amsterdam inspired a five-city telehealth pilot project involving barbershops and hair salons. The show’s medical director had a brilliant idea to enlist barbershops in African-American neighborhoods to screen customers for hypertension (high blood pressure), which leads to an overwhelming majority of the 140,000 stroke-related deaths a year.
Bridging the digital divide can help address our nation’s persistent health disparities. Rural Americans not only face limited access to health-care facilities, but “suffer from higher rates of obesity, mental health issues, diabetes, cancer, and opioid addiction.” But the tie that also binds is the lack of high-speed broadband connectivity in low-income communities, too. Rural America, as you know, is facing a physician shortage and low-income and rural populations are less likely to have choice when it comes to broadband providers.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
In August 2020, the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Office of Connected Care recognized the growing demand for patients’ access to video-based virtual care, and that many patients lack a video-capable device, or the internet connection required to access this care. To bridge “the digital divide, which exists between individuals with access to a device and connectivity and those who [lack that] access,” VHA introduced the digital divide consult.
The United States has long struggled with a health care system that is both expensive and often inaccessible when it comes to providing certain populations with equitable care. The White House and Congress acted quickly to transition patients to telehealth during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the future adoption and use of telehealth will depend on how the U.S. health care system addresses coverage and reimbursement, medical licensure, and service modalities.
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau approved the sixth and final group of funding commitments under Round 2 of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Telehealth Program and committed $47.89 million in funding to 100 health care providers across the nation. The funding commitments will provide critical support to health care providers on the front lines in the fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With this action, 447 awardees have received funding commitments totaling $256,378,567 and all funding in the program has been committed.
The Federal Communications Commission approved an additional 68 applications for funding commitments totaling $42,702,383 for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This is the FCC’s fifth funding announcement of approved Round 2 applications, bringing the total to over $208 million awarded to healthcare providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. Below is a list of health care providers that were approved for funding in this fifth funding wave:
Medicare Beneficiaries’ Use of Telehealth in 2020: Trends by Beneficiary Characteristics and Location
This research report examines changes in Medicare fee-for-service Part B visits and use of telehealth in 2020 during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) by beneficiary characteristics, provider specialty, and location. The analysis found that Medicare in-person visits dropped while telehealth visits increased significantly at the start of the pandemic. Subsequently, telehealth visits declined before plateauing by the end of 2020. Visits to behavioral health specialists showed the largest increase in telehealth. Most telehealth visits were from the beneficiary's home.
The Federal Communications Commission approved an additional 75 applications for funding commitments totaling $42,163,705 for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This is the FCC’s fourth funding announcement of approved Round 2 applications, bringing the total to approximately $166.13 million awarded to health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, and completing the first phase of Round 2 of the Program.