The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) aims to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Unprecedented in size and scope, the legislation is reported to be the largest-ever economic stimulus package in U.S. history.
In addition to providing financial aid for businesses and individuals, the law offers grants for healthcare initiatives such as telehealth—and this could have a huge impact on the availability of remote care solutions that leverage wireless networks.
Specifically, the CARES Act includes two provisions that apply to funding remote healthcare delivery for patients:
The first is aimed at expanding grants to healthcare networks for telehealth initiatives; expanding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines on remote monitoring solutions; and offloading hospital capacity to keep patients at home by monitoring their vital signs remotely. The grant applies to the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote, at a distance, healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, health administration, and public health.
The second provision is intended to provide grants for expanded delivery of healthcare services in rural areas; for the planning and implementation of integrated healthcare networks in rural areas; and for the planning and implementation of small healthcare provider activities that improve quality of services.
Bridging the Digital Divide for Vulnerable Populations
Through the grants mentioned above, the CARES Act could help the healthcare industry address a number of challenges, including:
The need to provide enhanced individual care and access to care services for people who live in remote locations.
The rising costs of delivering care to patients, particularly those who live in remote locations.
Difficulty of delivering care to veterans living in rural areas who do not have easy access to health services.
Exposure of healthy individuals, including many healthcare workers, to unnecessary risks.
Poor patient experiences due to the lack of proximity to care providers.
The rise of telehealth is particularly important as the healthcare industry tries to cope with the virus pandemic. For patients with pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, hospitals are leveraging telehealth as a way to monitor them remotely, which dramatically reduces the time spent in a hospital for continued monitoring. In today’s situation, additional time in a hospital risks exposure to the virus and increases the strain on precious hospital resources including physicians, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
In addition, healthy patients are using telehealth as a way to limit unnecessary risks of exposure to COVID-19. A doctor can now see a patient remotely to prescribe medications or for a quick follow-up. Vital signs can be monitored from the patient’s home and alert a doctor if care is needed. During a time when many hospitals across the country are operating at well above capacity, it’s important to save valuable space for those in critical need of health services.