Telehealth grants provide a funding source for developing telehealth services, telemedicine schools and demonstration models. The grants can spur innovative applications of existing communications technology. The use of electronics in medical care management is growing and telehealth services show promise for extending patient care.
Telemedicine can be used to provide psychiatric treatment and specialty services in fields such as dermatology. The use of telehealth technology can also help reduce costs and eliminate barriers to treatment of chronic conditions like diabetes.
Telemedicine Growth and the Private Sector
In the private sector, foundations and commercial interests have contributed to telemedicine technology and growth. The U.S. government is interested in funding telehealth programs to increase health services and control costs. Early detection of preventable diseases is a primary goal of national health policy, and telemedicine offers a way to provide prevention-oriented care for less money.
Mindful of telehealth emergency laws and regulations, state governments realize that telehealth technology can potentially reduce health care costs. A few jurisdictions offer funding opportunities to develop or enhance medical education and health care delivery and capacity.
One example is in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where a prominent foundation provides grants to improve health services and increase patient service capacity using innovative applications of telehealth technology. The focus of the program is on underserved communities.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a major role in promoting rural development. It operates a distance learning and telemedicine program that uses grants and other forms of federal assistance to promote health services in rural communities. The latest round of funding provided seven grant awards that are being used to improve telemedicine capacity and develop models for replication throughout the nation.
The Office of Rural Health Policy
The Office of Rural Health Policy in the Department of Health and Human Services operates a national grant program to demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative approaches in telehealth. The focus of the program is on school-based health centers and local health provider sponsors.
School-based telemedicine can help meet the needs of chronically underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. State governments may have to take on greater roles in providing health care for low-income families. Telemedicine can provide communities with effective health services while reducing costs related to distance, travel and market scarcity.