As FCC taps into its coronavirus telehealth program, big profits like Providence turn in cash

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission approved the current cash flow from telemedicine service providers in their areas and sold $ 200 million for the project when the COVID-19 case reached $ 3 million.

Of the 539 public health and nonprofit providers that have received money from the program’s taxpayers since it began in April, 21 providers have each received $ 1 million from the program, including huge hospital systems that have, if not, millions of billions of annual revenue.

Months after the pandemic began, it is now a well-known critique of how the Trump administration provided federal aid to the healthcare sector. 

Although the FCC had no plans to give more than $ 1 million to a single candidate for the COVID-19 telemedicine program, West Hospital System Coast, Providence, according to the program’s FAQ, has received almost “in one or more applications.” 2 million dollars. An analysis of the immersion of health care recipients shows the use of four rounds of funding.

Providence, the nation’s third-largest nonprofit with 51 hospitals in seven states, received a $ 1 million grant on June 3. A week later, $ 866,750 was awarded for “attached COVID-19 kits containing tablets, Bluetooth thermometers, and blood pressure monitors.” and connected pulse oximeters and stethoscopes” according to an FCC version.

Thermometers and pulse oximeters already supplied. “”

A Providence spokeswoman told Health Dive that many of its patients live in rural areas and need funds to treat and monitor infected patients at home, which puts them at risk for viral infections and the use of personal protective equipment. There is a great demand for hospitals.

“With a request for help from the FCC, we prepared our application as part of the health care system and showed the FCC that these contributions were not mistaken,” he said. “We have also shown that they are aware that our unique services are offered in a variety of areas.”

An FCC spokesman told Healthcare Dive, “Thanks to the design, this grant covers many hospitals in the country.”

However, Wednesday’s post raises doubts that most of the $ 200 million pot has gone to public health and nonprofit providers who need it most, the researchers said.

“While this program supports many small clinics and health systems, I was surprised that so many payments, especially large ones, went to large systems. Health said.

There is concern that the money has gone to health systems that can send a request for money, rather than to the providers who need it most “said Mehrotra.

Providence, which posted $ 1.36 billion in revenue and received $ 509 million in CARES grants in 2019, has an extensive telemedicine infrastructure that has received nearly 70,000 patient visits in the past year, and in the wake of the pandemic, it could be increased to 70,000 visits per week. He has been building this infrastructure for over 12 years, focusing on very acute hospital environments such as TeleICU, Tele-Attack, and Telepsychiatry.

Many of the 21 suppliers that received $ 1 million in taxpayer money are elite, tech-savvy systems with great resources who are better positioned than other suppliers to withstand the pandemic, such as the Center. Academic Medical of the Mayo Clinic. Minnesota, which last year had sales of over $ 1 billion and received $ 220 million in CARES grants.

Other $ 1 million recipients include NYC Health + Hospitals public system with 11 facilities, Connecticut Yale New Haven Integrated System, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Health System, and Novant Health Network with four states. Another large regional system, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger, received nearly $ 979,000.

The Mayo Clinic, Novant, Johns Hopkins, and Geisinger facilities were named one o

f America’s “most connected” hospitals last year by the healthcare IT group CHIME for their technology and information capabilities.

According to the FCC, applicants are selected based on their financial motives, the situation they are facing, as well as whether the funding will address those with high risk or areas with problems with supply and demand, housing closures. medication, or access to the band Myriad barriers, including a lack of technology or reliable internet coverage, make it difficult for patients to access virtual care services — especially those living in low-income, minority, and rural communities.

However, there is little overlap in the regions most affected by this “digital divide”, and regions with providers that have received funding for the FCC television program show the analysis.

For example, Montana has the lowest average Internet speed of any state, but it was one of only three states that did not win contracts despite Providence’s operations in that state. About a third of Montana citizens do not have reliable broadband coverage.

Similarly, only one in seven Utah households has an online subscription, but government providers have received just over $ 1 million in funding, such as the Mayo Clinic, with growing concern about pandemic-induced disparities the health pandemic and the digital country could be strengthened technology.