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FCC approves $780K grant for West Virginia University Health System

The Federal Communications Commission approved a grant of $780,899 to help West Virginia University Health System give patients the ability to talk with their families because of social distancing requirements stemming from COVID-19.

“Our telehealth program has become of critical importance to patients and their ability to maintain continuity of care during the ongoing and ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Albert Wright, president and CEO of West Virginia University Health System. “In a state like West Virginia, where the incidence of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer are higher than the national average, our patients’ lives depend on having regular access to their healthcare providers.”

In-person appointments had to be halted because of the pandemic, Wright said.

“Telehealth services play such a vital role in our healthcare abilities in West Virginia and I am optimistic that this investment will only improve the technology used.” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, said in a statement. “Giving our residents the ability to connect with top of the line medical professionals via telehealth helps us not only overcome logistical barriers created by our state’s landscapes, but also abide by distancing guidelines created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FCC said the grant monies WVU Health received will also be used for network upgrades, telemedicine carts, tablets, laptops and videoconferencing equipment and software licenses to conduct virtual visits with patients in their homes. It will also offer health care opportunities in remote locations to prevent the patient from traveling and risking exposure at a clinic.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, who in April wrote a letter to the FCC pressing for approval of the grant, said the grant monies is a big boost to the health care industry.

“West Virginia healthcare providers and patients have adjusted to new care systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including telephone-based appointments between providers and patients as well as systems for families to talk to loved ones in healthcare facilities they can’t visit,” Manchin said in a statement.