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FCC awards telehealth grants to 3 Missouri hospitals

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded its latest round of telehealth grants Tuesday, approving investments for three hospitals in Missouri. 

Compass Health in St. Peters was approved for a $967,371 grant to purchase telehealth kits allowing patients to monitor their oxygen readings, blood pressure, and weight from home to mitigate in-person interactions. Funds will also be used to purchase laptops for patients and health care workers to use.  

The Community Health Center of Central Missouri in Jefferson City was awarded $329,215 to purchase new telehealth equipment to allow doctors and patients to interact via virtual appointments. 

CoxHealth Consortium in Springfield will receive ​$553,551 to purchase laptops, headsets, and monitors to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 in its facility. 

The FCC allowed all remaining applicants to the program to supplement their applications last month to conclude the nearly $250 million second round of the program. The latest round of awards covered 68 applicants across the country.

“As the impact of new variants continues to challenge our healthcare system, the FCC has worked diligently to review and approve funding commitments as part of our COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.  “As we head into 2022, the ability to treat patients and loved ones from the safety of their home is of vital importance.”

These aren’t the first Missouri facilities to benefit from the program: Mercy Health was awarded $793,788 in October to purchase new equipment, such as telehealth monitors and carts, to allow on-site staff to connect with remote colleagues and collaborate on treatments. SSM Health in St. Louis was awarded $914,400 in August to enhance the quality of socially distanced patient care as the pandemic continues. 

Swope Health Services in Kansas City was also awarded $843,387 for laptops, tablets, and other devices, while the Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri was given $285,871 to extend telehealth services to patients with chronic conditions in September. 

The initial round of funding, administered last year, distributed $200 million to more than 530 health centers. SSM received $945,000 from the first round, and health centers in Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Springfield also got funding last year. 

Telehealth services saw a massive boost in popularity during the pandemic, providers told lawmakers earlier this year. They said virtual services remained popular as clinics reopened for in-person patients. 

The state plans to set aside $400 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allotment for broadband services, including telemedicine, while the White House estimated Missouri will receive $100 million for its internet capabilities through the federal bipartisan infrastructure law