Community health centers receive federal grant funding to serve under-insured and uninsured patients who may otherwise forego care. More than $6 billion from the American Rescue Plan was awarded to 1,400 community health centers across the country recently to aid primary healthcare services for the medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations they serve.
Funds awarded to the community health centers can be used a number of ways to enhance and expand healthcare services. Included in the allowable uses of these funds is telehealth, including the use of home monitoring devices and video to provide care to patients in their homes, community settings, and other locations.
Centers that use this funding for telehealth and remote patient monitoring will help bring these low income and uninsured patients to move into the digital age by having access to the same healthcare tools that insured patients are able to utilize. This is an important reality to the populations community health centers serve – 1 in 5 people live in rural communities and more than 91% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows healthcare providers to review patients’ biometric data as frequently as needed between office visits. It makes it easier to detect, diagnose and treat issues such as high blood pressure, low oxygen levels, increase/decrease in weight possibly due to medications, arrhythmias, high temperature and elevated blood glucose levels. Incorporating RPM in chronic disease management of patients with co-morbidities can significantly improve patients’ quality of life by preventing complications.
But having access to monitoring devices and tablets is not the whole story for this population. Internet access can be a real barrier. However, the FCC recently announced the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program which removes the barrier for many who struggle to be able to access broadband services. Eligible households, such as those who receive services through community health centers, can receive a $50 monthly discount on the cost of broadband service as well a $100 allowance for a tablet or other device. Without having to struggle to get online, these populations can access telehealth and RPM services.
Community health centers planning to allocate some of their funding for RPM should look for partners with successful programs, like WITHmyDOC’s RPM@Home program. Our program places high value on patient engagement, adoption and adherence, which results in improved outcomes, as well as better HEDIS scores