FCC awards $145M for telehealth networks

Broadband networks will links hundreds of rural hospitals

The Federal Communications Commission is giving $145 million to 16 telehealth projects that will link hundreds of hospitals with broadband networks in 17 states.

The FCC is expanding its Rural Health Care Pilot Program, started in 2007. Telemedicine and telehealth represent the use of telecommunications technologies and computers to enable delivery of health care to remote locations. The pilot program also intends for the telehealth networks to support data transmission for electronic health records.

“These health care networks will enable robust telemedicine services and provide high-speed highways for electronic medical records, saving lives by improving health care in rural America,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in announcing the projects Feb. 18.

The FCC grants will pay for deployment, including engineering and construction, of regional high-speed broadband networks to be used for telehealth. They will supplement $46 million in FCC funding for six rural telehealth projects announced in April 2009.

The FCC has also extended by one year a major project deadline for selecting a vendor, to June 30, 2011. Many of the projects eligible for the telehealth funding have experienced delays in negotiations with vendors for network deployment, the FCC said in a news release.

“I understand certain projects need additional time and am happy the FCC can provide additional flexibility for the build-out of these critical health care networks,” Genachowski said.

Nationwide, eligibility for the FCC rural health funding is limited to 62 projects serving 6,000 care facilities in 42 states. The total funding available for all projects if $417 million. Most of the funding has not been awarded.

To date, 21 projects have posted requests for proposals to select vendors to build out their broadband networks, but have not yet selected a vendor.

Winners of the current round of funding that totals $145 million include:

  • New England Telehealth Consortium for Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, $25 million.
  • Illinois Rural HealthNet Consortium, $22 million.
  • Michigan Public Health Institute, $21 million.
  • Oregon Health Network, $21 million.
  • Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, $16 million.
  • Northeast Ohio Regional Health Information Organization, $12 million.
  • Iowa Rural Health Telecommunications Program for Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, $10 million;
  • West Virginia Telehealth Alliance for West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio, $8 million.
  • Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare Alliance, $5 million.
  • Missouri Telehealth Network, $2 million.
  • North Country Telemedicine Project in New York State, $2 million.
  • Northeast HealthNet for Pennsylvania and New York State, $2 million.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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