The busy season for healthcare IT grants has arrived! Over the next six weeks or so, a number of key grants from federal and state governments, as well as foundations will become available. So now is that time for healthcare agencies and providers to get organized so that they can take advantage of all that is on offer in this highly fundable area.
The first thing to do before applying for grants is to understand the funding landscape. For grants coming from the federal government, organizations will want to understand the difference between telehealth and telemedicine and know which category their project falls into. Telemedicine grants generally cover tech that supports delivery of direct care and connects a medical professional to a patient. Telehealth grants, on the other hand, connects medical professional to medical professional and helps with supporting distance learning, continuing education and other professional development activities.
The second thing to know is that federal grants are generally focused on the provision of healthcare services to rural areas. Primarily this focus is intended to help offset the shortage of medical professionals in rural America and overcome the distance to care that many in rural communities experience. However organizations in urban areas can apply for grants if they are partnering with rural medical centers or leading an initiative that touches rural communities. Moreover, urban communities should also investigate grants that support childhood health as the proportion of students on free and reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program is an important indicator to funders of an economic need in a given community. However, for urban communities that don’t have a rural ‘hook’ applying for grants through foundation funding is a much stronger prospect.
To dive into the fundamentals of the federal funding that will be available this spring, there are two main sources of federal funding – one comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the other comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants focus primarily on distance learning and telemedicine grants and there is a pool of approximately $20 million available for capital acquisition of end user equipment to support the project. Meanwhile the HHS grant – Telehealth Network Grant Program– provides funding up to around $6 million for approximately twenty programs to support rural communities.
Once you’ve identified the right grant, make sure you align your application to the grant’s key criteria and differentiate it with specific facts about your organization’s circumstances. For example, identify unique geographical needs that make the delivery of medical care difficult – such as distance between medical facilities, or geographical features that pose obstacles to accessing facilities. Identify matching grants that can be brought in from other sources, especially if you’re applying for the USDA DLT grants, which require a 15 percent minimum match and award higher scores for matching funds above that threshold. Equally, if you can get creative with how the technology will be used and demonstrate greater community benefit and collaboration with other departments or organizations, such as using equipment that is funded for use in telemedicine programs can also be leveraged for telehealth when not in use for patient care.
Good luck with your application!