Legal Insights and Perspectives for the Healthcare Industry

Coming on the heels of the FCC’s recently proposed $100 million Connected Care Program to fund telehealth-based connections between healthcare providers and patients, and continuing its recognition of the critical role telehealth plays in the healthcare industry, the FCC recently voted to adopt an extensive order overhauling the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program. The RHC Program has been supportive of telehealth services for some time, providing subsidies to rural healthcare providers to lower the expense of their broadband services, including monthly telecom and broadband recurring costs, and funding for special construction and network equipment where the healthcare provider otherwise lacks access to telecom or broadband facilities. (Read our prior blog on the FCC’s proposal.

The RHC Program has significant funding—over $571 million—and this reform is designed to streamline certain procedures, provide priority to rural healthcare in areas that are medically underserved, simplify the calculation of amounts that healthcare providers pay and service providers receive, reform the competitive bidding process, and improve the application process. The FCC intends for these comprehensive program changes to support vital telemedicine and telehealth services in rural communities while promoting efficiency and transparency and avoiding waste, fraud, and abuse.

The FCC recently issued draft rules for a pilot funding program to enhance broadband service for connected care telehealth purposes, reflecting the agency’s recognition of the increasingly critical role that telehealth plays in the healthcare industry. The proposal for a $100 million fund to use advanced telehealth technologies to reach low-income Americans and veterans will be of great interest to many healthcare companies.

Members of the Morgan Lewis healthcare team joined more than 1,200 professionals in attendance at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Health Lawyers Association recently held in Boston. This year’s conference was notable for a group of educational sessions on how the acceleration of digital technology is redefining the healthcare industry. Presenters stressed the importance for healthcare systems to have a digital strategy in place for maintaining relevance in this fast-changing environment, which one speaker likened “to building a plane while you fly it.”