HHS & HRSA Award $64 Million to Expand Telehealth Innovation in Community Health Centers & Rural & Underserved Communities

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Through a series of telehealth grant investments, the United States federal government is investing in the growth and reliability of its nationwide telehealth network. In the article below, US telehealth funding grants and relevant links are outlined to increase the awareness of potentially interested stakeholders.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Telehealth Grants

Awards will enhance telehealth, digital patient tools, and health information technology to support underserved communities.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has awarded nearly $55 million to 29 HRSA-funded health centers to increase health care access and quality for underserved populations through virtual care such as:

  • Telehealth
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Digital patient tools, and
  • Health information technology platforms.

These telehealth grants build on more than $7.3 billion spent in the American Rescue Plan, which has invested in community health centers over the past year to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. “Virtual care has been a game-changer for patients, especially during the pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities. The announcement reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing health equity and putting essential health care within reach for all Americans.” HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson added, “Today’s awards will help ensure that new ways to deliver primary care are reaching the communities that need it most,” He continued, “Our funding will help health centers continue to expand their virtual work while maintaining their vital in-person services in communities across the country.”

The more than 1,400 HRSA-supported health centers in this country serve as a national source of primary care for at-risk communities. The network comprises community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to nearly 29 million patients annually. More than 90% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (about $55,000 per year for a family of four in most states). Approximately 62% include racial/ethnic minorities.

Other HRSA Telehealth Fundings

The United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also announced vital investments to strengthen telehealth services to expand telehealth innovation and quality nationwide. A total of $19 million in telehealth grants are distributed to 36 award recipients. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra explained, “Telehealth is crucial to providing convenient and sustained patient care.” He added, “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 supporting innovative solutions that strengthen our health care system.”

HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa commented, “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.” He continued, “This funding will help drive the innovation necessary to build clinical networks, educational opportunities, and trusted resources to advance telehealth.”

HRSA is making these key investments through the following telehealth programs:

  • Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP): Approximately $4.28 million is awarded to 9 health organizations to build sustainable telementoring 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): $4.55 million is awarded to 12 regional and two national Telehealth Resource Centers. TRCs provide information, assistance, and education on telehealth to organizations and individuals who actively provide or want to provide telehealth services to patients. Each regional TRC will offer a wide range of assistance to local community needs. The two national TRCs 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 $3.85 million is awarded to 11 organizations to help health networks increase access to telehealth services and assess the effectiveness of telehealthcare for patients, providers, and payers. The EB TNP 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 awarded to 2 organizations to assess telehealth strategies and services to improve health care in rural medically underserved areas with high chronic disease prevalence and high poverty rates. The Telehealth COEs will be located in academic medical centers and serve as telehealth incubators to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes, and publish telehealth research. The COEs will establish an evidence base for telehealth programs and a framework for future telehealth programs.

Other Telehealth Grants & Legislation

  • Texas: $6.5 million of telehealth funding was awarded to the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center, and $1.5 million was awarded to the Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center. The program aims to expand broadband connectivity in rural parts of Alaska, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia, where a lack of resources is a significant barrier to telehealth adoption.
  • Virginia: Virginia passed Senate Bill No. 663, which directs the Virginia Board of Health to amend its state plan for medical services to allow for the payment of originating site fees to emergency medical service agencies for facilitating synchronous telehealth visits for Medicaid members with a distant provider. They define the originating site as wherever the patient is located and receives telehealth services.

This telehealth funding coincides will Virginia also passing House Bill No. 81 and Senate Bill No. 436, which require the Virginia Board of Health to create a Statewide Telehealth Plan to promote the introduction and use of telehealth services in Virginia. The plan includes:

    • Promotion of telehealth services in the operating procedures of health care facilities, schools, and emergency medical services agencies;
    • Promotion of store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring services;
    • Strategy for integrating the Statewide Telehealth Plan with other state health and emergency plans; and
    • Strategy for the maintenance and revision of the Statewide Telehealth Plan
  • West Virginia: $6.5 million in telehealth grants was awarded to the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center, and $1.5 million was awarded to the Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center. The program aims to expand broadband connectivity in rural parts of Alaska, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia, where a significant barrier to telehealth adoption is the lack of resources.
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