CHRISTUS Health Strongly Supports a Proposal to Establish a “Connected Care Pilot Program.”

CHRISTUS Health is committed to effectively leveraging technology solutions to provide quality, accessible and affordable care to individuals in all of the communities we serve, including rural areas.  Broadband-enabled telehealth services help improve access and quality of care while reducing costs to patients and providers.  Remote patient monitoring and mobile health technologies can play a particularly important role in the delivery of health care in rural settings, where issues of affordability and broadband service limitations are more pervasive.  Too often, however, patients in rural communities face barriers in accessing broadband-enabled telehealth services.
 
To overcome these barriers, CHRISTUS Health strongly supports a proposal under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a “Connected Care Pilot Program.”  This initiative would establish a three-year pilot program to be funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), which would help health care providers defray the costs of broadband service to enable low-income patients and veterans to access telehealth services.  We applaud FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr for championing this proposal and strongly support its timely implementation.
 
CHRISTUS has firsthand experience with the improvements that can come from telehealth.  In 2012, for example, CHRISTUS implemented its own remote monitoring pilot in partnership with a carrier and remote monitoring vendor in Texas.  Working with a care transition team focused on post-hospitalization treatment of patients with chronic heart conditions and diabetes, the CHRISTUS remote monitoring project sought to increase quality of care, while reducing the burdens on the certified care transition nurses responsible for monitoring remote patients.
 
CHRISTUS found after one year of study, the project successfully reduced readmission rates by 24 percent and reduced the cost of care by an estimated $236,000/year for congestive heart failure patients enrolled in the pilot.  Enrolled patients also experienced reductions in post-discharge complications and reported higher patient satisfaction.
 
Our experience underscores the need to make the Connected Care Pilot Program a reality.  The program has significant potential to overcome current barriers to providing cost-effective telehealth services that rural providers and the patients they serve desperately need.  CHRISTUS has urged the Commission to move forward expeditiously in establishing this opportunity, and the FCC will formally consider the proposal at its next public meeting on July 10, 2019.