FCC Closes Out Connected Care Pilot With $30M in New Grants

Sixteen new projects have been selected to receive the funding in the last round of the program established in 2020 to support the advancement of connected care.

By Anuja Vaidya

March 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission has selected 16 new Connected Care Pilot Program projects to receive $29.7 million in funding.

This is the fourth and final set of approved projects under the Connected Care Pilot Program, which was launched in 2020 to help cover costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services for projects that provide telehealth and connected care services. The program was set up to provide up to $100 million over three years to selected applicants.

The FCC announced its first group of program awardees in January 2021 and, along with the most recent round, is set to fund 107 projects serving patients in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

“Telemedicine has moved into the mainstream. It is now an essential part of healthcare in rural communities, urban communities, and everything in between,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “These pandemic days have proven it.”

The final round includes projects that aim to address several health conditions, such as high-risk pregnancy/maternal health, mental health conditions, opioid dependency, and COVID-19.

“On a personal level, I’m especially pleased that efforts to address maternal health and high-risk pregnancy are the focus of several of our awardees,” Rosenworcel said. “We are the only industrialized nation with a rising level of maternal mortality. That’s unacceptable in every way…My goodness, we need to do better. So, I’m glad that in several locations, including Virginia, Hawaii, Delaware, Alaska, and South Carolina, we have been able to use this program to support connected care for pregnancy monitoring and maternal health.”

Several organizations are seeking more than $1 million in new funds, including Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is seeking $9.4 million, Palmetto State Providers Network, a consortium with 34 sites in South Carolina, which is asking for $7.1 million, and New England Telehealth Consortium, with 11 locations in New Hampshire and Maine, which is seeking $2.5 million.

Though this is the last round of awards through the Connected Care Pilot Program, the FCC will continue its efforts by studying the award recipients in the program, the connections they used, and how they helped facilitate care, Rosenworcel said. Next year, the agency plans to produce a report on initial lessons learned through the connected care and COVID-19 telehealth programs.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program, initially launched as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020, aims to help providers offer connected care services to patients in their homes or at mobile locations in response to the public health emergency. The FCC relaunched the program in March 2021, and recently completed its sixth and final phase of funding through the program, providing $48 million to 100 healthcare providers.

The FCC is also supporting broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to boost access to internet connectivity, which will expand access to virtual care. The agency recently approved more than $640 million in new funds for broadband carriers in 26 states.