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Federal Agencies Team Up for Telehealth

(Image credit: Future Media)

The FCC, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture are teaming up to tackle rural telehealth at the direction of the President and in the shadow of a pandemic that has lit a fire under that effort.

The three have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate and share information about disparities in rural health care, help ISPs and promote broadband tech to rural areas. The effort, which came at the direction of President Trump in his executive order on access to rural health and telehealth, also includes creating an interagency task force that will meet regularly and make recommendations for the exchange of "agency expertise, scientific and technical information, data, and publications."

"Rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and strokes than their urban counterparts," the FCC said in announcing the MOU. "Telemedicine plays an increasingly critical part in treating patients, improving health outcomes, lowering costs, and helping health care providers maximize their impact on their communities, especially in rural areas of the United States."

"Increasingly critical" in part because the pandemic has made people less likely to venture out for a physical appointment.

“From the beginning of my tenure at the FCC, I’ve heard and shared the view that telemedicine is a game-changer for rural America," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai. "The COVID-19 pandemic has made the rural healthcare challenge even more serious and has complicated healthcare providers’ efforts to serve rural Americans. More than ever, these areas of the country need enhanced connectivity to provide vital health services to residents."

Congress as part of its COVID-19 aid package gave the FCC $200 million for telehealth connected care services and devices , which it handed out in a matter of weeks, but clearly more needs to be done.