Federal Government Invests $8 Million to Address Gaps in Rural Telehealth

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has awarded $8 million to fund the Telehealth Broadband Pilot (TBP) program. The TBP program assesses the broadband capacity available to rural health care providers and patient communities to improve their access to telehealth services.

“HHS has made it a priority to transform rural healthcare, including through innovations like telehealth, where we’ve seen many years’ worth of progress in just the past year,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “As someone who hails from rural America, supporting delivery of care in the most remote parts of America, like Alaska, is a personal passion of mine, and telehealth is a crucial part of that work. This telehealth pilot program is part of the Rural Action Plan that HHS launched this past year, which lays out a path forward to coordinate agency efforts to transform and improve rural health care in tangible ways.”

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Through the new program, $6.5 million was awarded to the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (TTAC), based out of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The TTAC works in the area of technology assessment and selecting appropriate technologies for a variety of telehealth services. TTAC will implement the TBP in four state community locations, including Alaska, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia. TTAC will also work with the Rural Telehealth Initiative’s federal partners to improve rural communities’ access to broadband and telehealth services through existing funding opportunities and grant programs.

HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) also awarded the Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center through the University of Arkansas $1.5 million to evaluate the TBP program across all participating communities and to serve as a resource on telehealth for rural communities around the nation.

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“We are excited to collaborate on this pilot program that will identify rural communities’ access to broadband to improve their ability to use telehealth services,” said HRSA Administrator Tom Engels. “HRSA remains dedicated to helping rural communities build the capabilities to improve access to quality health care.”

The TBP program is a three-year pilot and the result of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed on September 1, 2020 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum also created the Rural Telehealth Initiative, a cross-cutting, multi-department initiative that coordinates programs to expand broadband capacity and increase telehealth access to improve health care in rural America.

For more information about telehealth, visit HHS’s Telehealth Website, HRSA’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, and Telehealth Resource Centers pages.

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To learn about HRSA-supported resources, visit HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy page.

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