Hawai’i FQHCs Get $1.3 Million to Launch, Expand Telehealth Services

14 federally qualified health centers on six islands will share $1.3 million in grants to use telehealth and mHealth tools to improve access to care for some of the state’s most underserved populations.

Fourteen federally qualified health centers on six islands in Hawai’i are getting $1.3 million to launch or expand telehealth services.

The grants, coming from the Freeman Foundation and Hawai’i Community Foundation, will help the FQHCs, based on Hawai’i, Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Lana’i and Moloka’i, expand their connected health footprint to address access issues caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Throughout our work in the United States and Asia, we’ve seen how basic technology can facilitate connections and improve daily lives,” Graeme Freeman, president of the New York-based philanthropic organization, said in a press release. “More rapid adoption of telehealth in Hawai‘i means helping health providers for rural and underserved communities, as well as families who need better resources to see their doctors virtually.”

The money will be administered by the Hawai’i Medical Service Association and used for telemedicine software and equipment, broadband connectivity, educational resources for both patients and providers and mHealth tools, including smartphones, tablets and webcams.

With the COVID-19 crisis reducing in-person care, FQHCs, Rural Health Centers (RHCs) and community health centers have been using telehealth to improve access and coverage for their patients, many in underserved areas or populations. They’ve been aided by emergency state and federal rules that boost access to and coverage of telehealth services, though those actions are due to end with the public health emergency.

Telehealth advocates are hoping that either Congress or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) amend the rules to make telehealth coverage permanent for these sites, among others.

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