Editor’s Note: Cheryl Henshaw, National Director of Poly’s Grants Assistance Program co-authored this post.
A fantastic source of telehealth funding is on the horizon – Round 2 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Covid-19 Telehealth Fund. This program provides eligible organizations with the capital needed to purchase and deploy telehealth equipment, software, and connected peripheral devices in order to address the challenges of delivering healthcare services during the pandemic. The FCC is in the process of reviewing public comments on the administration of the program which will be used to inform the guidance for the second round of the program.
While some changes from Round 1 are anticipated, the program will likely retain certain core elements.
- First, the program covers certain capital expenditures, including equipment, software, licensing, and connectivity, and does not cover personnel, services, or other non-capital expenses.
- Second, the expenses must be tied to Covid-19 related services or challenges that are addressed by telehealth, with a priority given to areas that are hardest hit by the pandemic or that provide care to vulnerable populations.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM ROUND 1 OF FUNDING
There are several lessons learned from Round 1 applications that will be beneficial in preparing for the next round of funding. Applicants should fully describe their need – who they are serving, how they have been impacted by Covid-19, how many patients they expect to serve (or patient encounters they expect to conduct), and the positive benefits anticipated as a result of the project.
The scope of the project budget should align with the volume of patients you will serve, with equipment choices matching the intended population. For example, a project that requests funding for 10,000 licenses but only projects to serve 500 patients is unlikely to be approved or fully funded. Requests for hospital-grade solutions to be provided in home settings will likely be problematic.
An important bit of advice – make sure that each section of the application is addressed fully and completely and use attachments if necessary to help the reviewers fully understand your organization’s unique challenges and your proposed solution.
OTHER SOURCES OF FEDERAL FUNDING
The FCC Telehealth Fund is just the beginning – there are several other significant sources of Federal funding anticipated within the next several months. While the funding programs are focused on addressing the pandemic, the capital investments subsidized by these funds lay down the foundation of telehealth infrastructure that can be leveraged long after the pandemic. The following are a few of the strategic considerations that should be taken into account when planning both your funding applications and your organization’s telehealth strategy:
Which collaboration service(s) will you be using?
Many healthcare organizations scrambled to implement telehealth to respond to the pandemic. As a result, individual departments or organizational units often deployed different collaboration services, each with their own benefits and challenges. As your organization moves forward, are you considering standardizing on a single collaboration service (e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams), or do you intend to support multiple different services? If you’re going to standardize, then you should consider the purchase of videoconferencing endpoints that can run these collaboration providers in “native” mode. Poly’s endpoints are designed to work with all of the major collaboration platforms and can run in native mode if your organization standardizes on one platform. If your organization decides to support multiple services, then interoperability is key. Poly’s RealPresence Collaboration Server is designed to allow legacy standards-based endpoints and multiple cloud collaboration services to interoperate, serving as a backbone for seamless videoconferencing across your enterprise.
What computing “engine” will you be using in your healthcare facilities?
Healthcare can be a challenging environment for implementation. Using dedicated Poly endpoints like the Poly Studio X Family, Telehealth Station, or G7500 can address several unique challenges for collaboration in a clinical environment:
- End users don’t have admin rights on computers in most healthcare settings. So, it’s difficult and time-consuming to install/update software or USB hardware on computers that are at the bedside or in the examination room. Poly endpoints can be easily deployed, managed, and kept up to date.
- Host computers have variable auto-shutdown and auto-sleep settings. Poly endpoints can be configured to be always-on and/or standby (wake) mode.
- There is much variability in PC-hosted collaboration solutions in clinical environments – both in the performance of the computers themselves and attached peripherals. Poly endpoints are purpose-designed to provide the best superior audio and video performance for collaboration.
Do you have a plan for a consistent and professional videoconferencing experience for your staff, providers, and patients who are working from home?
Our Poly Studio P Series products improve the experience for physicians and staff who use their laptops or desktop computers to work from home or the medical office. The Studio P5 webcam is available in a packaged Studio P5 kit that also includes a headset or personal speakerphone all in one package that’s easy to set up by patients, providers, or staff.
These are just a few of the considerations that you should factor in planning your grant applications and in developing your long-term telehealth strategy. If you have any questions about the FCC Covid-19 Telehealth Fund or other emerging Federal funding opportunities, please contact the Poly Grants Assistance Program at Grants@poly.com. To learn more about Poly’s healthcare solutions, visit poly.com/ healthcare or contact your Poly representative or channel partner.
Our authors, Scott and Cheryl sat down with Jonathan Clark, and Neil Fluester to discuss these topics in-depth and more on last week’s Poly Weekly News program – check it out if you haven’t already done so: