Health care providers get federal money to expand telehealth

An older man makes a telehealth call. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: fizkes - stock.adobe.com

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An older man makes a telehealth call. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: fizkes - stock.adobe.com

UC Medical Center and Centerpoint Health in Middletown are two local recipients in the most recent wave of COVID-19 funding from the Federal Communications Commission. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program uses federal CARES Act money to help health systems across the country build out and improve telehealth options for patients.

UC Medical Center will receive $1 million to “purchase of headsets, webcams, and telehealth software” to serve patients and allow isolated patients to stay in contact with loved ones, according to a release from the FCC. Centerpoint Health will get $153,208 to purchase “remote monitoring devices to expand their telehealth footprint and manage care for patients with chronic conditions, maternity patients, and to assist providers with making clinical decisions in the virtual space.”

“We needed to have a better infrastructure so we could provide a telehealth platform that is stronger and has more security,” explained Lorrie Glenn, CEO of Centerpoint Health.

According to Glenn, 30-40% of her health system’s work is currently done through telehealth technology. That’s a big shift from pretty limited options before COVID-19, although she says having some experience in telehealth prepared Centerpoint to evolve its services during the pandemic.

“We were in a unique place,” Glenn said. “A lot of places had never really done those services.”

Research from management consulting firm McKinsey and Company shows telehealth usage has stabilized after an initial spike early on in the pandemic. That data shows telehealth usage is still about 40 times higher than before COVID-19.

“I don’t think it will ever go away,” Glenn said. “There’s so many reasons that it makes sense to have this available to people ongoing. It’s just another tool in our tool belt to provide better care to our patients.”