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.
Meanwhile, many veterans in rural areas of the U.S. are forced to travel long distances and face financial barriers that reduce their access to much needed healthcare services and threaten their quality of care. Rural veterans are also less likely to access health services for both physical and mental illness. With veteran telehealth sessions surging since state stay-at-home orders were issued—and with telehealth becoming a preferred modality for many veterans—the CARES Act could not come at a more crucial time.
Even better, technology companies are coming together to provide connected care solutions at a key point in America’s COVID-19 response.
A Mobile-First Solution for the Future of Health Monitoring
A new, bundled solution from T-Mobile and global solutions aggregator and technology distributor Tech Data is designed to help healthcare providers deliver telehealth services to those who need them most. Through its partnerships with Intel and remote healthcare data solutions company WiCis, Tech Data makes it easier for healthcare providers to deploy data aggregation/analytics and services.
The joint solution—called Telehealth & Telemedicine Monitoring—encompasses cloud-based workflows, videoconferencing capabilities, and the live monitoring of patients’ vital signs. It’s designed to deliver the monitoring capabilities of a hospital operating room directly to a patient’s location, whether it’s at the patient’s home or a remote location. Since the solution is cloud-based, it can be deployed within 48 hours and can scale to support thousands of patients.
With connectivity over cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and satellite networks, the solution is designed to be simple and convenient for patient use, collecting data such as blood pressure readings and pulse rate from a wearable device. The device then streams the data to a mobile app, and from the app the data is stored and analyzed in a cloud-based platform. Doctors and other care providers can monitor information such as vital signs, initiate a video consultation, and administer clinical workflows for the patient based on these results.
The solution, which is paid for by a healthcare provider, can easily be sent to a patient in a rural area for video conferencing or full remote vital signs monitoring in real time, with analytics and threshold alerts sent to physicians as well as patient-approved family members. The solution is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), including security provisions like data encryption to ensure the privacy of patient data and other sensitive information.
T-Mobile and Tech Data offer the solution to virtually any type of healthcare provider, including hospitals, clinics, individual physician practices, and home healthcare providers. A provider can be up and running with the system in hours and the data collected can be shared with any existing EHR system.
Looking ahead, as the country works to safely adapt and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, new monitoring solutions like this one will help change the way healthcare services are delivered to individuals so all involved can stay safe, healthy, and productive.