MedStar Health awarded nearly $1 million by FCC for telehealth expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic
Funding recognizes telehealth’s importance to the pandemic response to date, supports work ahead
July 10, 2020
Columbia, MD — This week MedStar Health was awarded $976,679 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to bolster the system’s exponential expansion of telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was awarded by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau through its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
“MedStar Health has supported patients through more than 275,000 telehealth sessions during the COVID-19 crisis as of early July,” said Bill Sheahan, vice president of telehealth at MedStar Health. “This FCC award will support telehealth investments we’ve made to transform care delivery during the pandemic and will also help fund related work in the coming months to continue to treat and protect our communities.”
The funding will help MedStar Health reach an estimated 1.6 million system patients via telehealth through investments in:
- Telehealth platforms that provide on-demand urgent care, scheduled appointments, provider-to-provider remote consult services, telehealth services for hospitalized patients to stay in touch with family members, and remote patient monitoring
- Telehealth equipment including tablets, carts, desktop computers, and videoconferencing technology
“MedStar Health has created and advanced telehealth and other innovative capabilities for more than a decade; we have long believed they play an important role in the future of care delivery,” said Mark Smith, MD, chief innovation officer of MedStar Health and director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation. “COVID-19 has transformed many telehealth aspirations into urgent needs, and this FCC funding will help us continue to scale and build telehealth offerings at the pace required to serve our communities during the pandemic.”
Telehealth COVID-19 Response Sparks Historic Systemwide Collaborations and Scaling
On March 13, 2020 MedStar Health launched its telehealth COVID-19 response, scaling and/or building core telehealth offerings in the following order as the crisis evolved:
- MedStar eVisit: on-demand urgent care by video, offered 24/7/365
- MedStar Health Video Visits: scheduled video appointments with primary care and specialty providers—a platform built and launched at scale in just days during the pandemic, and now driving more than 80 percent of telehealth volume
- MedStar eConsults: inpatient/facility-based telehealth, connecting providers to one another and patients, and patients to families
After one month of the system’s COVID-19 response, MedStar Health providers were delivering more than 4,500 daily outpatient telehealth sessions. In addition to outpatient telehealth, inpatient and facility-based telehealth was also growing rapidly. This included both new and expanded offerings that enable emergency medicine provider consultations; telehealth connection of intensive care units, palliative care resources, and medical ethics consultations; and facilitating connections between providers, patients, families, and interpreters.
“Telehealth is more than just technology—it’s now central to how we treat people,” added Sheahan, who leads the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center, which serves as the nucleus of the system’s telehealth efforts and is part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation. “During the pandemic, telehealth has helped minimize infection exposure, maintain care connections, improve communications, distribute rare and critical expertise, meet patients wherever they need care, and much more. Both as the pandemic persists and once we overcome it, MedStar Health will remain ready to deliver connected care throughout a patient’s healthcare journey.”
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress appropriated $200 million in funding for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program so healthcare providers can advance telecommunications services, information services, and device purchases necessary to offer critical connected care. MedStar Health’s award was among the 539 funding applications the FCC reports it approved in 47 states plus Washington, D.C. and Guam to fully distribute the $200 million to enable the critical expansion of telehealth across the country in response to the pandemic. For more information about the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, visit https://www.fcc.gov/covid19telehealth.
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