Rural communities are some of the most under-served populations in the United States when it comes to healthcare. So, the rise of telehealth and telemedicine technologies has offered these communities the opportunity to vastly improve the delivery of health services to rural areas, particularly in the specialized fields, like telepsychiatry. However, while the technologies and possibilities exist, sometimes the ability to start or expand a program is hampered by the realities of cost.
The good news for rural communities is that there are many grants available to healthcare organizations from both state and federal agencies to support the development and expansion of telehealth and telemedicine programs. In fact, just this past month, the Texas legislature passed H.B. 1697, The Pediatric Tele-Connectivity Resource Program for Rural Texas, to provide funding to support pediatric telemedicine in rural communities across the state.
While this program doesn’t come into effect until the end of 2017 the scope of the law has established that grants will be made to non-urban healthcare facilities to connect with pediatric specialists and subspecialists. According to Casey Rossetti, Regional Grant Manager at Polycom, the grants may be used for equipment purchases, to modernize IT infrastructure to support telemedicine services and ensure HIPAA compliance, and to pay for service fees associated with the program.
This grant program is just one of many that are available to rural communities to support telehealth and telemedicine initiatives, said Rossetti in a recent conversation with Future Healthcare Today. “The Department of Health and Human Services offers many grants to support the creation and expansion of telehealth programs,” he shared. “Many times grants from federal agencies can be boosted by the addition of state or private grants – not just in terms of the total dollars available, but also as leverage that could earn matching bonuses,” Rossetti added.
As well looking for grants that specifically call out medical service provision, additional funding can also be found via grants that support hospital and public health preparedness programs. Two federally funded grants that are on the cusp of a new funding cycle are the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants. While the grants are funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) they are managed by local public health agencies to ensure funding gets to where it is needed most.
With a total of $850 million dollars from federal agencies and with state matching grants to ten percent of the award available these are important funding sources for rural healthcare providers and organizations. As well as being used to stock command centers, the grants have an IT component to ensure that remote communities can communicate via video conference during emergencies and permit the dual use of video conferencing equipment acquired with these grants to be used for telehealth and telemedicine.
One last piece of advice from Rossetti: always check eligibility requirements. “Even for grants that are written broadly to support a wide range of programs, there are always nuances to account for,” said Rossetti. For example, the Tele-Pediatrics grant requires that the facility has a designated neonatal intensive care unit, or emergency department and the capability to maintain records and reports to measure the effectiveness of the grant. “While none of the requirements are too unusual, accounting for them can make the difference between being able to propose a unique program that will bring immediate impact to rural communities and a year of required developments in order to effectively compete for funding,” Rossetti added.
To learn more about how to fund a telemedicine program, check out Polycom’s eBook on grant assistance and best practices here.