On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its $8 million investment through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the Telehealth Broadband Pilot (TBP) program, which evaluates rural health care providers’ and patients’ broadband access in order to make telehealth more accessible.
The National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center, based out of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, works to select suitable technologies for various telehealth services and will receive $6.5 million to implement the TBP in its state community locations in Alaska, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia.
The University of Arkansas’ Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center will receive $1.5 million from the HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to assess how the TBP program is working across all communities involved and to be a rural telehealth resource for communities across the country.
“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,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said. “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.”
TBP is a three-year pilot program resulting from a memo signed by the HHS, Federal Communications Commission, and U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 1, 2020, committing to initiatives to expand broadband capacity and telehealth access in rural U.S. states.