U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is applauding a federal initiative to grow the availability of telehealth for rural areas.
The Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services and the U.S. Department Of Agriculture last week announced they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Rural Telehealth Initiative.
The initiative is a joint effort to collaborate and share information to address health disparities, resolve service provider challenges and promote broadband services and technology to rural areas around America.
Blackburn said in a statement, “We’re seeing increased adoption of telehealth in rural areas for one reason: telehealth works. This FCC-HHS-USDA collaboration will addresses challenges inhibiting communities from access to telehealth, whether that be lack of broadband access or problems with provider service. Telehealth’s growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has alleviated high volumes of in-patient care tremendously. I look forward to seeing this partnership in action in Tennessee.”
Blackburn has previously highlighted the need for increased telehealth access during the pandemic.
The FCC said the agencies will establish an interagency Rural Telehealth Initiative Task Force. The task force will regularly meet to consider future recommendations or guidelines and exchange agency expertise, scientific and technical information, data, and publications.
This action delivers on President Trump’s recently signed Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of telehealth in delivering quality healthcare to rural Americans.
Rural Americans are acutely affected by gaps in the healthcare system, from hospital closures to a lack of specialty care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rural Americans, who make up more than 15% of the U.S. population, face numerous health disparities compared with their urban counterparts. Rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and strokes than their urban counterparts. Telemedicine plays an increasingly critical part in treating patients, improving health outcomes, lowering costs, and helping health care providers maximize their impact on their communities, especially in rural areas of the United States.
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