The Federal Communications Commission’s Healthcare Connect Fund will provide up to $400 million in grants to health-care providers in an effort to spur development of broadband networks that support telemedicine that links urban medical centers to rural clinics, or that provide instant access to health records.
The fund, which expands the FCC’s health-care broadband initiative from pilot to program, will enable thousands of new providers across the country to share in the benefits of connectivity and dramatically cut costs for both hospitals, according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
The FCC will begin accepting Healthcare Connect Fund grant applications in the late summer of 2013, said Genachowski, who announced the funding initiative at the Oakland Children’s Hospital & Research Center, where he was joined by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, the California Telehealth Network and the Juvenile Justice Center.
The fund seeks to provide patients at hospitals and clinics with access to specialists at major health centers through telemedicine, the FCC says. The fund also supports the exchange of electronic health records, leading to better coordination of patient care and lower costs. A Healthcare Connect Fund grant can be used to support telemedicine programs. Some of the types of programs it will support are:
- Increased broadband connectivity and broadband networks for health-care providers.
- The formation of state and regional health-care consortia that cut costs and expand access to health care.
- Providing a 65 percent discount on broadband services, equipment, connections to research and education networks, and HCP-constructed and owned facilities (if shown to be the most cost-effective connectivity option), while requiring a 35 percent HCP contribution.
Entities eligible to apply are public or not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers, health centers serving migrants, community mental health centers, local health departments or agencies, post-secondary educational institutions/teaching hospitals/medical schools, or a consortia of such organizations, the FCC says.