The Biden administration is investing $19 million to expand telehealth in rural and underserved communities to help increase access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investments will provide funding for telehealth incubators to pilot new telehealth services and track outcomes in rural medically underserved areas that have high chronic disease prevalence and high poverty rates. The funding also will provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas.
The funding will be distributed to 36 award recipients through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), federal official said in a press release.
“Telehealth is crucial to providing convenient and sustained care for patients,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “This funding demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s strong commitment to expanding access to quality health care for everyone, including in rural and underserved communities. I will continue to support innovative solutions that will strengthen our health care system.”
“Telehealth expands access to care and is a vital tool for improving health equity by providing timely clinical assessment and treatment for our most vulnerable populations,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa. “This funding will help drive the innovation necessary to build clinical networks, educational opportunities, and trusted resources to further advance telehealth.”
HRSA is making these key investments through the following telehealth programs:
• Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP): Approximately $4.3 million is being awarded to nine health organizations to build sustainable tele-mentoring programs and networks in rural and medically underserved communities. The funding will help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.
• Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs): $4.6 million is being awarded to 12 regional and two national Telehealth Resource Centers. These centers provide information, assistance and education on telehealth to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or want to provide telehealth services to patients. The two national telehealth resource centers will provide expert resources on telehealth policy, such as reimbursement, licensing, and privacy, and telehealth technology, such as equipment, cybersecurity and integration with other systems.
• Evidence-Based Direct to Consumer Telehealth Network Program (EB TNP): Approximately $3.8 million is being awarded to 11 organizations to help health networks increase access to telehealth services and to assess the effectiveness of telehealth care for patients, providers and payers. The program will expand access to health services in primary care, acute care, and behavioral health care.
• Telehealth Centers of Excellence (COE) program: $6.5 million is being awarded to two organizations to assess telehealth strategies and services to improve health care in rural medically underserved areas that have high chronic disease prevalence and high poverty rates. The Telehealth COEs will be located in academic medical centers and will serve as telehealth incubators to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes and publish telehealth research. The program will help to establish a framework for future telehealth programs.