HealthPartners received $1 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The grant is part of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth program and is an effort to advance telemedicine capabilities. $150 million has been approved. Another $100 million will be allocated to 75 health care providers across the Unites States in the future.

Regions Hospital in St. Paul and critical access care hospitals in Western Wisconsin were recipients of the grant. The goal of the program is to support health systems the effort to make care more convenient and affordable for patients. The funds will purchase a telehealth platform and virtual access for patients. 

Physicians will be able to remotely examine, diagnose and monitor patients with chronic conditions, preserve access to care and reduce economic health care disparities in underserved communities and rural areas.

The funds will purchase tools such as tablets to connect clinicians and patients for real-time exams using a camera, otoscope, stethoscope, thermometer, blood-pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter.

The program provides reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services and connection for devices needed for telemedicine visits during the pandemic. 

HealthPartners medical director of value-based care, Jerome Siy, MD said in a recent news release, “We are grateful for this grant that allows us to purchase software and cellular-enabled smart devices for acute and chronic-disease management that are simple for patients to use with the push of a button. Patients who need continuous care can be treated remotely from their homes,” According to the statement, “Telehealth services at HealthPartners pre date the COVID-19 pandemic and are used for a variety of reasons. Since January 2020 the organization has amplified its use and completed more than 1.6 million video patient visits. Since 2019, the HealthPartners Hospital@Home program which gives hospital-level care inside a patient’s home, has treated more than 321 patients virtually. Since December of last year program has served 217 patients.

In 2021 Regions Hospital Burn Center has provided 1,528 visits including 44 acute consults.”

In early November, Siy spoke with Rena Sargianopolous with Kare 11 and explained, “During the pandemic we learned that access to health care could be expanded through telehealth, but we also learned there were limitations to the technology. The folks at Regions and HealthPartners are trying to change that with a new grant. How do we make sure we don’t make disparities in care worse? We’re actually bringing that together. With a million-dollar grant from the FCC, they’re now putting technology into place that bridges the gap.”

In addition to expanding telehealth services, Siy also said about the program, “We need to be able to hold somebody’s hand. We need to be able to wipe tears, and we need to be able to celebrate with somebody, so that human touch can’t go away and it won’t go away.” 

 

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