Telehealth and telemedicine aren’t magic pills that cure all U.S. healthcare ills, but recent advances in remote care delivery technologies are having a Field of Dreams moment. Funding cuts, doctor shortages, and hospital closures in rural America have created a void that teleservices help fill. We’ve written about a wide range of telemedical applications, from dermatology to physical therapy and post-surgical patient compliance monitoring. Dollar and time cost-savings add up quickly when patients don’t have to travel to meet with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The federal government recently showed support for remote care. The Federal Communications Commission boosted funding for rural telemedicine by increasing the annual cap on Rural Health Care Program spending from $400 million to $571 million, or by nearly 43%. In its announcement, the FCC addressed the high-quality health care services now possible with broadband connectivity, from consultations via video conferencing to radiologists reading X-rays.
The Rural Health Care Program funding cap was set in 1997 and never indexed for inflation. The recent funding increase catches up with inflation since the fund’s inception. The FCC also stated it will adjust the cap for inflation each year going forward and will allow unused funds from prior years to be carried forward, a practice that was not allowed previously.