April 7, 2020

FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program & Connected Care Pilot Program

FAQs for ATA Members

Disclaimer: This document is for educational purposes only. Please carefully review the FCC Order and relevant Federal Register Notices before submitting an application to FCC. 

The FCC has launched two funding programs to support health care providers in expanding telehealth and virtual care to patients. The April 2 FCC Report and Order establishes two distinct programs – the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Connected Care Pilot Program.

The $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program was authorized under the recently passed CARES Act and is intended to rapidly disburse funds to providers seeking to expand telehealth and RPM services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The program is intended to fund a broad range of technologies and disburse funds to eligible providers are quickly as possible.

The $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, established within the Universal Services Fund, has been a long-term FCC initiative designed to fund pilot programs over the next three years to examine how the USF can help support the trend towards connected care services. The pilot intends to direct funding towards pilot projects that would primarily benefit low-income or veteran patients and require additional data and reporting requirements that would support future FCC efforts.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements?

Eligibility for both the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the now finalized Connected Care Pilot program will be restricted to the following non-profit health care providers (per statute):

  • post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  • community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  • local health departments or agencies;
  • community mental health centers;
  • not-for-profit hospitals;
  • rural health clinics;
  • skilled nursing facilities; or
  • consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories.

Q: What technologies and services qualify?

COVID-19 Telehealth Program

The program will fund health care providers in the purchase of telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The FCC sees the program a way to deliver remote medical, diagnostic, patient-centered, and treatment-related services directly to patients outside of traditional brick and mortar medical facilities.

The program will only fund monitoring devices (e.g., pulse-ox, BP monitoring devices) that are themselves connected, but not unconnected devices that patients can use at home and then share the results with their medical professional remotely.

Examples include remote patient monitoring (e.g., use of patient reporting outcome platforms, glucometers, pulse oximeters, sphygmomanometers, chest straps, wearables, passive sensors, or other devices to consistently monitor patient vitals), patient health education, store and forward services (e.g., asynchronous transfer of patient images and data for interpretation by a physician), and synchronous video consultations and visits.

Connected Care Pilot

FCC announced that the Pilot Program will fund 85% of the qualifying costs incurred by eligible health care providers. These costs include:

  • patient broadband Internet access services,
  • health care provider broadband data connections,
  • other connected care information services, and
  • certain network equipment

Unlike the COVID 19 Telehealth Program, the Connected Care Pilot will not fund end-user diagnostic devices or equipment, administrative costs associated with participating in the Pilot Program, etc.

Q: When will the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Connected Care Pilot application period open?

COVID-19 Telehealth Program

The FCC established a streamlined application process for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program that will be separate from the longer application process for the Connected Care Pilot Program.

The FCC will begin accepting applications immediately after publication of its Report and Order (published on April 2) and notice of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program’s application and information collection requirements in the Federal Register, which must first be approved by OMB. Our understanding is that OMB has expedited the FCC request.

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau will review the applications as they are received, select participants, announce funding amounts, and make funding awards on a rolling basis.

Connected Care Pilot

The FCC deadline for filing applications for the  Connected Care Pilot Program will be 45 days from the publication of the Pilot Program rules in the Federal Register, or 120 days from the release date of the Order, whichever is later.

Eligible health care providers will design their proposed pilot projects, select the service providers for the supported services and network equipment, and identify and enroll the qualifying, participating patients.

The FCC will issue further rules on the requirements for requesting funding, invoicing, data reporting, and programmatic safeguards including document retention and audit requirements.

Q: What are the application requirements for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program?

The FCC has included the following information in its Report & Order:

To be considered for participation in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, interested eligible health care providers must submit applications that, at a minimum, contain the information detailed below:

  • Names, addresses, county, and health care provider numbers (if available), for health care providers seeking funding through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program application and the lead health care provider for applications involving multiple health care providers.

  • Contact information for the individual that will be responsible for the application (telephone number, mailing address, and email address).

  • Description of the anticipated connected care services to be provided, the conditions to be treated, and the goals and objectives.

  • Description of the estimated number of patients to be treated.

  • Description of the telecommunications services, information services, or “devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services” requested, the total amount of funding requested, as well as the total monthly amount of funding requested for each eligible item. If requesting funding for devices, description of all types of devices for which funding is requested, how the devices are integral to patient care, and whether the devices are for patient use or for the health care provider’s use. As noted above, monitoring devices (e.g., pulse-ox, BP monitoring devices) will only be funded if they are themselves connected.

  • Supporting documentation for the costs indicated in your application, such as a vendor or service provider quote, invoice, or similar information.

  • A timeline for deployment of the proposed service(s) and a summary of the factors the applicant intends to track that can help measure the real impact of supported services and devices.

Q: How will applications be evaluated?

COVID-19 Telehealth Program

The Wireline Competition Bureau will review applications in consultation with the Connect2Health Task Force and its medical and public health experts. Funding will be targeted towards areas that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and not toward specific medical conditions, patient populations, or geographic areas.

FCC also express preference for providers that could demonstrate how telemedicine directly aids in the prevention of community spread of COVID-19 and reiterated FCC support for connected devices and services, including patient-reported outcome platforms.

The FCC does not anticipate awarding more than $1 million to any single applicant. Applicants that have exhausted any initially awarded funding may request additional support and could potentially receive it, but only if funding remains available and the further application is approved by FCC staff.

Connected Care Pilot

The FCC intends to evaluate and target resources towards patient populations, health conditions and geographic areas where funding for connected care services is most needed, including health care providers that can demonstrate how the funds will be used to support veterans and low-incomes patients, public health epidemics, opioid dependency, mental health conditions, high-risk pregnancy, or chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke recovery.

Given that this is a 3-year pilot and the focus on data collection, FCC indicated a strong preference for health care providers that have:

  • experience with providing telehealth or connected care services to patients (e.g., remote patient monitoring, store-and-forward imaging, or video conferencing) beyond using electronic health records, or

  • a partnership with another health care provider, government agency, or designated telehealth resource center with such experience that will work with the health care provider to implement its proposed pilot project.