FCC and USDA Partner for Rural Telehealth Initiative
Rural Americans are more likely (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/ss/ss6602a1.htm?s_cid=ss6602a1_w) to have a fatal cancer diagnosis and face additional concerns like fewer hospitals and physicians in a one-size-fits-all (https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/rural-telehealth-mou-hhs-usda-fcc.pdf) healthcare system. To address the disparities, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) partnered with (https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-366590A1.pdf) the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form the Rural Telehealth Initiative (RTI).
RTI is a program to find better mechanisms to provide quality health care in rural communities through:
- Collaboration and sharing information to address health disparities
- Resolving service provider challenges
- Promoting broadband services and technology to rural areas
Initially, the partnership is focusing on (https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/rural-telehealth-mou-hhs-usda-fcc.pdf):
- Establishing an interagency RTI Task Force
- Appointing agency representatives to participate in the task force
- Convening task force meetings
- Considering future recommendations and guidelines
- Exchanging agency expertise, scientific and technical information, data, and publications
RTI comes amid the increased demand for telehealth (https://voice.ons.org/news-and-views/telehealth-visits-during-covid-19) and President Trump’s executive order on improving rural health and telehealth access (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-improving-rural-health-telehealth-access/).
“More than ever, these areas of the country need enhanced connectivity to provide vital health services to residents,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said (https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-366590A1.pdf). “With the adoption of the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program (https://www.fcc.gov/covid-19-telehealth-program), FCC acted quickly to approve 539 funding applications for a wide array of healthcare providers, including community health centers, mental health clinics, and nonprofit hospital systems in both rural and urban areas of the country. By joining forces with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and USDA, FCC is extending its commitment to connect rural Americans to telehealth services—today and into the future.”