The Health Resources and Services Administration has distributed $54.6 million to 29 community health centers as part of its efforts to increase access to telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other digital tools among underserved populations, the Health and Human Services Department announced Tuesday.
"Virtual care has been a game-changer for patients, especially during the pandemic," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release. "This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities."
Community centers reported a 6,000% increase in virtual visits from 2019 to 2020, which grew from 478,333 to 28,550,608 visits over that time, according to HHS. The number of health centers offering virtual services rose during the COVID-19 pandemic from 592 in 2019 to 1,362 in 2022, a 130% increase.
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The 1,400 federally qualified health centers treat nearly 29 million patients a year, according to HHS. Ninety percent of their patients live in households with incomes at or below the 200% of the federal poverty level—which amounts to $25,760 a year for a single person—and 62% belong to racial and ethnic minority communities.
The new money is meant to enable health centers to sustain virtual care on a larger scale while implementing additional digital strategies, HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in a news release. "Our funding will help health centers continue to expand their virtual work while maintaining their vital in-person services in communities across the country," she said.