In April 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a $200 million plan to provide telehealth funding to hospitals, many of which were scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, the FCC set aside the funds for provider organizations who could apply for telehealth-related assistance.
Excelsior Springs Hospital located in Excelsior Springs, Missouri was an early applicant. The hospital’s proactive and bold application was submitted April 15, 2021. This quick turnaround was possible because hospital personnel moved quickly to identify the equipment they needed in order to successfully pivot their care amid the pandemic. Quick thinking and action were particularly important for Excelsior Springs Hospital given its nonprofit structure and the rural community it serves.
The hospital was awarded $995 thousand, received June 17, 2020. The money was used for a variety of new telehealth equipment, including spot vision screeners, EKG/spirometers, concussion testing tools and CBS systems. Two new tools were particularly notable.
The first is the Med Cart. The MCT Medpod Telemedicine Carts the hospital purchased enable total mobility for the physicians using them. They are ideal for situations in which a physician and the technology she uses to be moved throughout the provider building from patient to patient. The Med Cart contains diagnostic tools including a digital stethoscope, EKG, concussion testing, 3 types of cameras, ultrasound and x-ray.
The second mobile diagnostic tool is the Med Kit. The Medpod MobileDoc m2d2 is the size of an airplane carry-on when fully stored. The equipment is carried around like a suitcase and can be popped up in any location where care is being provided. This tool is ideal for home health care providers. The Kit allows for the expansion of provider reach, serving as a tool for tele-appointments and diagnostic data gathering. It expands the care that can be provided out of the clinical setting by bringing the clinic to the patient wherever they may be.
To ensure that their new equipment was put to best and proper use, Excelsior Springs Hospital hired implementation specialists from Telehealth Associates. The hospital is already planning for future deployments of telehealth services, including in the local school district and community center, a local business, community housing and the police and fire departments.
One challenge the hospital has had is in securing patient buy-in for such a quickly changing telehealth landscape. Plans for future telehealth implementation include more comprehensive marketing to patients to secure their trust in new technologies and practices.
The FCC recently announced the second round of the telehealth granting program with equity-aimed adjustments in the decision making process.