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Federal agencies working together on rural telehealth initiative

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working on a Rural Telehealth Initiative, which will focus on addressing health disparities and provider challenges in rural America, in addition to promoting broadband services and technology, according to a press release.

Americans who live in rural areas are impacted by a number of health disparities and are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and strokes than Americans who live in more urban areas, according to the press release.

Telemedicine has the potential to improve care to these patients.

“From the beginning of my tenure at the FCC, I’ve heard and shared the view that telemedicine is a game-changer for rural America. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the rural healthcare challenge even more serious and has complicated healthcare providers’ efforts to serve rural Americans,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a press release.  “More than ever, these areas of the country need enhanced connectivity to provide vital health services to residents. With the adoption of the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program, the FCC acted quickly to approve 539 funding applications for a wide array of health care providers, including community health centers, mental health clinics, and non-profit hospital systems in both rural and urban areas of the country. This effort allowed for more patients to be treated at home, freeing up valuable hospital beds for those who most need them, and reducing the risk of exposure to the virus. By joining forces with HHS and USDA, the FCC is extending its commitment to connect rural Americans to telehealth services—today and into the future.”

Read the full press release here.

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