Telehealth Grants That Care Providers Should Know
Care providers seeking federal grants to implement virtual care solutions should first familiarize themselves with the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. As part of the Federal Communications Commission’s annual $571 million Rural Health Care Program administered by the nonprofit Universal Service Administrative Company, the fund offers providers a 65 percent discount on the cost of high-capacity broadband connectivity.
“It’s probably the big one we focus on the most, because it’s the most easily accessible,” Strietelmeier says. “There’s a ton of money available, and it’s pretty broad use.”
The application period opens July 1 and closes June 30 of the following year.
First, care providers must check with USAC to find out if they qualify and then publicly post what they’re seeking to purchase for 28 days. Providers then pick a vendor and await funding approval. Any money that providers don’t spend goes back into the fund for the next year.
The second telehealth funding source care providers should know about are competitive Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants.
Congress provided $60 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program for the grants, which range from $50,000 to $1 million and require a 15 percent match to cover the purchase of:
- Audio and video equipment
- A certain percentage of broadband facilities for telemedicine
- Computer hardware, network components and software
- Limited technical assistance and instruction
The application window ran from Dec. 1 to Jan. 30 and is expected to open again in the fall.
Rural and tribal support are key determinants in which providers receive grants.
“Telemedicine is difficult in rural environments because your clients don’t necessarily have access to broadband,” Strietelmeier says. “You almost have to be rural, but not so crazy rural that it won’t work.”
Generally, rural areas 15 to 20 miles outside a major metropolitan area are seen as the sweet spot, since they are likely to have some broadband infrastructure already in place to support telemedicine.
Providers Should Plan for Telehealth Grants in Advance
CDW·G helps care providers understand telehealth grants, eligibility, use and timelines, but applying falls to the providers themselves.
Strietelmeier’s advice for first-timers: “Have a two- to three-year plan, know what you want to do and start having those discussions.”
The government may ask for a unit diagram of an applicant’s network, and not having one ready to submit could result in rejection, he adds.
Smaller annual telehealth grants exist for, say, libraries to build out healthcare locations or school telemedicine clinics, but they’re harder to predict.
With any grant, applicants should be prepared to pay the total cost of the virtual care solutions they seek upfront, with the government reimbursing them later.