Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a final rule reforming its
universal service support program for health care. Specifically, the rule transitions
FCC's existing Internet Access and Rural Health Care Pilot programs into a new
Healthcare Connect Fund. This fund will expand health care provider access to
broadband, especially in rural areas, and encourage the creation of state and
regional broadband health care networks.
the rule, FCC notes that "Whether it is used for transmitting electronic
health records, sending X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans to specialists at a distant
hospital, or for video conferencing for telemedicine or training, access to
broadband for medical providers saves lives while lowering health care costs
and improving patient experiences." In particular, FCC acknowledges the
role of telemedicine in helping patients with stroke avoid lasting damage.
final rule also includes examples of how telehealth applications save health
care providers money. For example, a South Carolina provider consortium funded
by the Commission's Rural Health Care Pilot Program saved $18 million in
Medicaid costs through telepsychiatry provided at hospital emergency rooms.
Another pilot project in the Midwest saved $1.2 million in patient transport
costs after establishing an electronic intensive care unit program, known as
will post a summary of the rule in the near future to www.apta.org.