The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is investing $8 million to fund the Telehealth Broadband Pilot (TBP) program aiming to expand connectivity in rural areas of Alaska, Michigan, Texas and West Virgina.
January 11, 2021— Federal officials announced its investment of $8 million in a three-year pilot program with the goal of improving connectivity in rural areas of four states.
Through the new program, $6.5 million was awarded to the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (TTAC), and another %1.5 million to the Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center at the University of Arkansas to launch the Telehealth Broadband Pilot (TBT).
The new TBP program evaluates 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,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in a press release. “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.”
The TTAC, based in Alaska with the Alaska Native Tribal Consortium, works in the area of technology assessment and selects appropriate technologies for a variety of telehealth services. TTAC will implement the TBP in four state community locations— Alaska, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia. TTAC will also work with the Rural Telehealth Initiative’s federal partners to boost rural communities’ broadband access and telehealth services through existing funding opportunities and grant programs.
The Telehealth-Focused Rural Health Research Center, awarded $1.5 million by HRSA’s Office for Rural Health Policy, will assess the program’s development and act as a resource for similar rural telehealth efforts across the country.
“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 Telehealth Broadband Pilot (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.