The Federal Communications Commission has confirmed plans to offer a large sum of money to rural hospitals and other healthcare facilities interested in advancing their telemedicine infrastructure.
All told, the FCC will allot $400 million for the expansive funding effort, which will commence this summer. At that time, nonprofit hospitals will be allowed to apply for funding.
With the goal of spurring the development of broadband networks to support telemedicine, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski suggests that this may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the agency’s future commitment to telemedicine.
“The new Healthcare Connect Fund program builds on the success of the FCC’s Rural Healthcare pilot program and will expand the Commission’s health care broadband initiative from pilot to permanent program,” Genachowski said upon heralding the new funding initiative.
“For years,” he added, “the FCC’s primary healthcare program made it difficult for hospitals serving rural patients to get high bandwidth connections needed for modern telemedicine by limiting the services eligible for funding, and by making it hard for consortia to effectively bargain for the lowest cost service.”
The FCC’s commitment to these efforts is a positive sign that Congress may have the incentive to soon pass the proposed Telehealth Promotion Act.