The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Depiction of doctor conducting telehealth video visit with patient

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The CARES Act provided $200 million to the FCC to support healthcare providers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 2, 2020 the FCC announced its COVID-19 Telehealth Program which provides funding of up to $1 million per applicant to “purchase telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” As of April 29, 2020, the FCC has already awarded 30 applicants from 15 states funding totaling $13,700,581.  The average amount awarded is $456,686, with individual funding awards ranging from $26,180 to the maximum of $1,000,000.  Per the FCC order, “this funding opportunity will remain available until the funding is expended or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended,” and “applicants that have exhausted initially awarded funding may request additional support.”

Last week I wrote about the big changes to Medicare telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). But Medicare coverage is only part of the story.

Here’s an overview of several other temporary telehealth policy changes and federal telehealth programs you should know about. (This is not a comprehensive list but rather an overview of some of the most notable actions taken so far. Before engaging in any telehealth encounter and relying on a given regulation, I recommend you check the appropriate website or reach out to your regional Telehealth Resource Center for the most up-to-date information.)

Since the founding of the United States of America, we have made significant strides in advancing health justice, but the accompanying fight to ensure that every individual has a fair opportunity to achieve their optimal level of health is shaping up to be one of the defining challenges of our time. One of the major barriers to accomplishing this goal is the lingering presence of health inequalities — the differences in health and health care between population groups that occur across the life course and in many dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, location, gender, disability status and sexual orientation.

If you have any involvement in providing healthcare, you are aware that Congress, multiple federal agencies, and states have made immense changes in healthcare regulation – especially in telehealth regulation – for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Here is a brief summary of what is temporarily changed in terms of Medicare telehealth regulations – and it’s a lot!

The percent of eligible Arizona prescribers EPCS enabled is 23 percent above the national average as of February 2020. Learn what EPCS is and how it benefits both patients and providers statewide.

Scanning electron micrograph of two COVID-19 virus particles against a background of human red blood cells (pseudo-color)

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized the 2019 Novel Corona Virus COVID- 19 disease outbreak “a public health emergency, of international concern, day after day “hitting closer to home.”

But on February 28 edition of Tech Trends offered more than a glimmer of hope:

Information Technology (IT) has transformed many areas and medical care is a key area that digitalization can affect and improve. Telemedicine is the application of medical care, diagnostics, information dissemination and treatment through digital and virtual processes. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) were introduced in 1997 as part of a program that aimed to increase access to medical care in rural areas of the United States. They are typically small hospitals that are set up at least 35 miles from any other hospital and have a maximum of 25 beds. Further, they provide patients with essential medical services but to a maximum of 96 hours.

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