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COVID-19 Telehealth Programme Improves Healthcare During Pandemic

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Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) Commissioner applauds legislation introduced in the Senate on COVID-19 Telehealth Programme. This initiative will make permanent telehealth flexibilities that were made available during the COVID-19 pandemic and expand coverage of telehealth services.

The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021 will have several benefits. It will permanently remove geographic restrictions on telehealth services and allow health centres and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services. The programme also allows for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during future public health emergencies and require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Programme provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This will help health care providers give connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services.

The FCC Commissioner says that three years ago, they identified a new trend in telehealth. With smartphones and other connected devices, Americans could access health care services right from their homes or anywhere they have an Internet connection. Then, the FCC had no way of knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic would bring the benefits of telehealth services into such a sharp focus. But as the pandemic hit, they took immediate and sustained action to ensure that rules did not frustrate the delivery of these important services.

The FCC Commissioner expects the momentum for delivering care directly to patients outside the confines of brick-and-mortar facilities will continue to build well after this devastating pandemic ends. Moreover, as the reliance on telehealth technology continues to grow, it is critically important that these services are accessible regardless of the location of the patient, particularly in rural areas.

Telehealth has assumed an increasingly critical role in health care delivery. This is because technology and improved broadband connectivity have enabled patients to access health care services without needing to visit a health care provider’s physical location. Advances in telehealth are transforming health care from a service delivered solely through traditional brick and mortar health care facilities to the patient’s home or mobile location. Broadband internet access connection delivers these options.

Connected care services can also help contain and treat health conditions during public health emergencies, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One important benefit of telehealth in these situations is that it enables providers to treat patients while maintaining physical separation, thereby minimising the risk of further transmission.

Despite the numerous benefits of connected care services, patients who cannot afford are not realising the benefits of these innovative telehealth technologies. The costs necessary to provide connected care services may also limit some health care providers’ ability to treat patients, particularly low-income Americans and veterans, with connected care services.

Accordingly, The FCC establish a $200 million emergency COVID-19 Telehealth Programme to implement the CARES Act and ensure access to connected care services and devices in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and surge in demand for connected care services. The support provided through the COVID-19 Telehealth Programme will help eligible health care providers purchase telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services, whether for treatment of coronavirus or other health conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

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