Health Center News

$100 Million Telehealth Initiative Unveiled at VA Health Center

FCC Commissioner Carr speaking at Tri-Area Community Health Center in Laurel Fork, VA

High-tech innovation can happen in the unlikeliest places. Take, for instance, Laurel Fork, Virginia, where the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), visited Tri-Area Community Health Center to unveil a $100 million telehealth initiative. Commissioner Brendan Carr said the Connected Care Pilot Program will support telehealth for low-income Americans across the country, including those living in rural areas and veterans.

“With advances in telemedicine, health care is no longer limited to the confines of traditional brick and mortar health care facilities,” said Commissioner Carr. “With an Internet connection, patients can now access high-quality care right on their smartphones, tablets, or other devices regardless of where they are located. I think the FCC should support this new trend toward connected care, which is the healthcare equivalent of moving from Blockbuster to Netflix. That’s why the FCC will vote to advance my $100 million pilot program at our July 10 meeting. It will focus on ensuring that low-income Americans and veterans can access this technology. Particularly in rural communities like Laurel Fork, where the nearest hospital is in a different state, access to telehealth can make a life-saving difference.”

Carr made the announcement alongside two patients with diabetes who showed how they are using remote monitoring technologies to improve their health. 

“Diabetes patients here that participated in a remote telehealth program saw their A1C levels decline by 2.2 points on average, which significantly reduced their risk of renal disease, heart disease, and death caused by those conditions. Through the Connected Care Pilot Program, the FCC can build on the success of projects like these, which are helping create a model for the adoption of connected care technologies and bridging the doctor divide in rural America,” he said.

Nearly half (44 percent) of all health centers use Telehealth to expand services (see NACHC fact sheet). Telehealth programs are especially popular at rural health centers, where many residents can face long distances between home and health provider. Rural hospital closures have also impacted access to care for many rural residents. 

Carr said the FCC will be voting at its July 10 meeting to advance a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program to support telehealth for low-income Americans across the country, including those living in rural areas and veterans. He also underscored the benefits of such programs, noting that Connected care technologies are improving health outcomes and generating health care cost-savings. An FCC press release notes that:

  • A remote patient monitoring trial in the Mississippi Delta resulted in nearly $700,000 in annual savings due to reductions in hospital readmissions alone. Assuming just 20 percent of Mississippi’s diabetic population enrolled in this program, annual Medicaid savings in the state would be $189.
  • The Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) remote patient monitoring program cost $1,600 per patient compared to more than $13,000 per patient for VHA’s home-based primary services.
  • A telehealth project in the Northeastern U.S. found that every $1 spent on remote monitoring resulted in a $3.30 return in savings.
  • Analysts estimate that the widespread use of remote patient technology and virtual doctor visits could save the American health care system $305 billion annually.

Read the full text of Commissioner Carr’s remarks at Tri-Area Community Health Center.