Massachusetts FQHC Telehealth Consortium Awarded $3.1M FCC Grant to Increase Telemedicine Quality and Access in the Commonwealth
The Massachusetts FQHC Telehealth Consortium (Consortium), made up of 35 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), today announced that it has been awarded the only grant given in New England by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) to increase telemedicine capacity in community health centers statewide. The $3.1 million grant is part of the FCC's Connect Care Pilot Program, designed to help eligible healthcare providers defray the costs of providing telemedicine and study how the FCC's Universal Service Fund can help support the trend toward connected-care services.
The Consortium will use its grant funding to increase bandwidth at member health center sites and provide mobile hotspots for patients. This capacity will allow for the delivery of mental health services and substance use disorder treatment to more than 75,000 Massachusetts health center patients through remote patient monitoring, video visits and other connected services.
"We are thrilled that the FCC has recognized us with this funding," said Michael Curry, Consortium Co-Founder and President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "These technologies could be a game changer in providing lower-income patients and communities of color access, choice, and control over their participation in healthcare."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has not only made telehealth a necessity in providing care, it's also underscored just how essential connected care services are to lower-income patients and communities of color in accessing health care," said Christina Severin, Consortium Co-Founder and President and CEO of the health-center-based accountable care organization, Community Care Cooperative (C3 (News - Alert)). "This grant will help us better serve health center communities with telemedicine -- now and after the pandemic."
The FQHC Teleheath Consortium was launched by C3 and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers in the early days of the pandemic to ensure continuity of care for health center patients in communities that bear some of the highest rates of positive COVID-19 cases and greatest health disparities. This is the second grant the FCC has awarded the Consortium in the last six months to support sustainable telehealth capacity across Massachusetts' health centers.
To date, telehealth services have been well-received by Massachusetts health center patients with 93 percent rating their experience as 'good or excellent.' Behavioral health showed the highest rates of adoption and satisfaction among telemedicine offerings. In addition, 50% of Asians, 49% of Latinx and 42% of Black Americans have high interest in continuing with telemedicine for check-ups and urgent care, post-pandemic. However, availability of connected care devices and access to broadband remain significant challenges.
The FCC's Connected Care Pilot Program, funded through its Universal Service Fund, is making up to $100 million available over a three-year period for selected pilot projects for qualifying purchases necessary to provide connected-care services, with particular emphasis placed on serving low-income and veteran patients.
Community Care Cooperative (C3) is a 501(c)(3) Accountable Care Organization (ACO) that leverages the proven best practices of ACOs throughout the country and is the only ACO in Massachusetts founded and governed by Federally Qualified Health Centers and exclusively focused on advancing integrated and coordinated community-based care for MassHealth members. C3 works to strengthen health centers across the state, and continued growth enables C3 to better serve MassHealth members across the Commonwealth. To view a list of C3 health centers, click here.
The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (the League) is a 501 (c)(3) statewide membership organization supporting and representing the needs of the state's 52 community health centers, which offer primary and preventive care to more than one million state residents. The League serves as an information resource on community-based primary care to policymakers, opinion leaders and the media; and provides a wide range of technical assistance to its health center members, including advocacy on health policy issues, support for workforce development, clinical care and technology initiatives, and guidance to state leaders and community-based organizations seeking to open health centers in their communities.