In a letter submitted on April 17, 2020, HIMSS and PCHAlliance expressed support for many of the critical measures the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This letter was in response to a variety of recent FCC proceedings which include: Rural Health Care Support Mechanism; Promoting Telehealth for Low-income Consumers; Telecommunications Carriers Eligible to Receive Universal Service Support; COVID-19 Telehealth Program and; Actions to Accelerate Adoption and Accessibility of Broadband-Enabled Health Care Solutions and Advanced Technologies.
Many of the actions have been to support the use and expanded availability and accessibility of telehealth resources, an advocacy issue very close to both the HIMSS and PCHAlliance missions. HIMSS and PCHAlliance applaud the steps taken while urging FCC to be cognizant of the important message potential that the evidence and results derived during the pandemic may illustrate in regard to the extreme value of telehealth resources and the future of healthcare delivery.
Our comment letter emphasizes that at the current point in time, health care settings are undoubtedly being pushed to their maximum capacities both in terms of physical and health care professional staffing resources. In its actions towards keeping Americans connected and loosening some of the existing restrictive administrative burdens, FCC is demonstrating its recognition of the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The agency’s necessary action-oriented steps are towards ensuring that quality broadband connectivity is not only available, but also accessible, to those in rural and underserved areas during the pandemic. Additionally, we requested that other non-COVID-19 administrative burdens be relaxed if they haven’t already, specifically in regard to applications for the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program.
HIMSS and PCHAlliance also discuss how it is apparent that the benefits of expanded use of telehealth are not only realized by COVID-19 patients, but by non-COVID-19 patients as well. Advantages stem from being able to remotely screen and triage patients, to performing health assessments virtually in order to eliminate possible exposure of healthy patients to the virus, while the rate of infection is still very high.
HIMSS and PCHAlliance expressed tremendous support for the $200 million in additional funding to enable the provision of telehealth under the Cornovirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and use those funds to establish the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, in addition to the $100 million for the Connected Care Pilot Program. We find the establishment of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program to be significant in that it acknowledges the role of telehealth in improving outcomes and lowering costs. However, we emphasized again that while we support the intent, we think this momentum needs to continue in order to identify the potential long-standing impacts of an expansive use of telehealth in the future, and ultimately not lose sight of groundbreaking progress achieved beyond the pandemic.
The HIMSS policy team works closely with the U.S. Congress, federal decision makers, state legislatures and governments, and other organizations to recommend policy, and legislative and regulatory solutions to improve health through information and technology.