The Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of 69 state and regional grants totaling $417 million going to organizations in 42 states and three U.S. territories under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
Money for the grants to promote broadband telecommunications with an emphasis on rural and medically underserved areas comes from a surcharge on telephone users phone bills, a pool of funds that also is used to bring telecommunications to schools and libraries and to extend phone coverage to rural areas.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the pilot program last week at the annual meeting of the American Medical Informatics Association in Chicago.
The grants will cover up to 85% of the cost to develop and deploy the health information networks with grant amounts varying widely. The smallest was $93,240 to Mountain States Health Alliance of Tennessee and Virginia to connect two rural Virginia hospitals to an existing network of 11 hospitals in Tennessee. Next smallest was $194,225 to the DCH Regional Health System in Alabama, which will connect a regional medical center with two rural hospital.
The largest grant went to the New England Telehealth Consortium, where nearly $24.7 million is to be used to link 500 mostly rural facilities in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to urban hospitals in New England. California also came up big, with $22.1 million for the California Telehealth Network, targeting treatment of mental health, hypertension, asthma and cardiovascular disease patients in rural areas and linking about 300 facilities.