SPRINGFIELD –The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Competition Bureau has announced that Baystate Medical Center is among 77 health care providers in both urban and rural areas of the country who have been awarded a total of $29.41 million in funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus.
Baystate was awarded $927,146 for remote monitoring platforms focused on obstetrics, diabetes and hypertension tablets for distribution to patients and providers, as well as videoconferencing equipment to enable telehealth visits and treatment network upgrades, and kiosks to offer telehealth visits at community hospitals.
“While telehealth has been gaining momentum over the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated its use in providing safe and effective care for patients. We thank the Federal Communications Commission for recognizing the essential role telehealth will play in the years to come, and for awarding $927,146 to Baystate Medical Center so that we can greatly expand access to this easy and convenient care option to our patients,” said Dr. Mark A. Keroack, MPH, president and CEO of Baystate Health.
Dr. Keroack noted the hospital’s outpatient visits dropped by 80 percent as the pandemic proceeded, while virtual visits “went up by a factor of 40.”
“The obvious conclusion as a result of the coronavirus is that telehealth has become a very important tool in the physician toolbox. It can help mitigate the effects of provider shortages and bring specialty expertise to remote locations and community settings, therefore strengthening those sites of care and keep them more viable,” he added.
According to a study, “Telehealth: A Technology-Based Weapon in the War Against the Coronavirus, 2020,” by the research firm of Frost & Sullivan, the pandemic will continue to reshape care delivery – and open big opportunities for virtual care in the near-term future.
They forecast a sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025 – a five-year compound annual growth rate of 38.2%.
To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 444 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of $157.64 million in funding. It stopped accepting applications on June 25, 2020.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services until the program’s funds have been expended or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.