FCC launches $400 million health care development fund

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The FCC on Monday introduced a new program to create and expand telemedicine networks as part of the regulator's new Health Care Connect Fund.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the new program will provide $400 million in annual funding to healthcare providers, such as the Oakland Children's Hospital & Research Center, which participates as one of 50 active pilots in the California Telehealth Network.

The FCC said the Healthcare Connect Fund will "spur the development of broadband networks to support modern telemedicine, which will link urban medical centers to rural clinics or provide instant access to health records." 

With this fund in place, eligible health care providers will be able to not only get enhanced network connectivity, but potentially costs for hospitals and the Universal Service Fund. Applicants will be able to get access to a 65 percent discount on broadband services, connections to research and education networks, and Health Care Provider (HCP)-constructed and owned facilities, while requiring a 35 percent HCP contribution.

A key focus of the program is serving rural hospitals and clinics that have limited broadband connectivity options. However, non-rural HCPs can participate as part of a consortium, the majority of which must remain rural.

One of the specific elements of the program will be training. Next year, the FCC plans to launch a new Skilled Nursing Facilities Pilot Program that will test how to support broadband connections for skilled nursing facilities. It will provide $50 million total over a three-year period to support the nursing program.

Beginning in late summer of 2013, the regulator will start accepting applications for funding. 

For more:
- see the release

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