COVID-19 Telehealth Programs: FCC 2021 Relaunch
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced its rollout of the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This $249.95 million federal initiative, that has new guidelines, stems from the 2020 $200 million program started by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
This FCC project “supports the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (see docs.fcc.gov)
New parameters are set for 2021 so that instructions are clearer on how to qualify for reimbursements. Round 2 application and eligibility requirements are still similar to last year’s Round 1 conditions with some changes to make it swifter and more transparent. These changes include:
- Rating applicants to be more rigorous. This highlights areas that were hit the hardest and segments that have lower income, and there will also be prioritization on Tribal communities and sectors with shortage of healthcare providers.
- “Equitable nationwide distribution of funding” (see docs.fcc.gov). The 2020 program only funded 47 states, with the exception of Hawaii, Alaska, and Montana. This year, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will be more inclusive as there should be at least one applicant to receive funding from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- The abbreviation of application into seven days. This is different from last year where there were 14 rounds of granting awards. The tighter deadline seeks to improve the second round by placing all applicants in equal footing from the set deadline.
- There will be two phases of awarding for swifter funding and to give more opportunities for applicants to qualify for the second phase through the better provision of information.
For those considering to apply, it should also be noted that the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a reimbursement program; it does not grant awards. To receive compensation, providers are required to submit invoice forms and other documentation on their telemedicine expenses.
In this pandemic, people are urged to stay home. Teleconsultation helps bring people to their health care providers without having to visit clinics or hospitals. And as visiting your doctor becomes more difficult, COVID-19 telehealth programs are essential in keeping people safe at home. As an EHR, Zoobook Systems comes with a telehealth app to help medical practitioners meet their patients from the comfort of their homes.
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