The Journal Gazette
Friday, May 22, 2020 1:00 am

Providers' telehealth aid on hold

Parkview, IU Health have yet to receive update on requests

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

The FCC approved 43 applications in the latest funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Payments announced this week total $16.87 million, but local providers are still awaiting decisions on their requests.

Parkview Health is among the health care providers that applied to the CARES Act program. If approved, Parkview's request could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local nonprofit.

Brian Bauer, IU Health Fort Wayne's president, said Indiana University Health Fort Wayne also has applied to the Telehealth Program but hasn't received a response.

For-profit hospital systems, including Lutheran Health Network's parent, Community Health Systems, don't qualify for the assistance. Among the eligible organizations are local health departments and skilled nursing facilities.

Created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the program's $200 million budget is earmarked for health care providers that provide telehealth services to patients in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of this week, the Federal Communications Commission had approved seven rounds of reimbursement funding for 132 health care providers in 33 states plus Washington, D.C., for a total of more than $50 million.

Max Maile, Parkview's vice president of virtual health, is remaining patient.

“Parkview Health applied for the FCC funding within the first weeks of the funding announcement,” Maile said in a statement. “While we have not yet received approval, we have not been rejected. We remain hopeful that our application will be reviewed and rewarded in an upcoming round.” 

Since mid-March, Parkview Physicians Group has completed more than 80,000 patient visits about evenly split between phone and video, Maile said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Parkview Health averaged 68 video visits a week, with no visits done via telephone.

Parkview now averages more than 5,700 video visits and 5,400 telephone visits a week, he said.

The numbers are for outpatient clinics only. They do not include additional services provided to inpatients at Parkview hospitals, which leverage other virtual health technology, he said.

The Telehealth Program, which reimburses eligible expenses and services, doesn't have a deadline, according to the FCC's website.

“Funding decisions will be made on a rolling basis, and the FCC will continue to accept and review applications until the funding is exhausted or the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended,” the federal agency's guidance states.

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