September 18, 2020
OCHIN is pleased to announce that 24 health care organizations across six states in our network will receive customized support, through our COVID-19 Telehealth Program, for improving access to virtual care in underserved communities.
Telehealth has become a mainstay of health care delivery since the emergence of COVID-19 and the implementation of physical distancing guidelines to help prevent its spread, particularly in medical settings. OCHIN has helped nearly 90 percent of its member clinics shift to telehealth services, in order to meet these new demands, while continuing to provide high-quality care. But as the pandemic wears on, it’s clear that further investment and innovation is needed among safety-net providers to ensure the benefits of this virtual care transformation reach the nation’s most medically-complex and underserved patients.
In July, OCHIN was awarded a total of $2 million from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help close the digital health care divide by funding the distribution of telehealth services and equipment bundles across its two broadband consortia: OCHIN Broadband Network Services (OBNS) and the California Telehealth Network (CTN). OCHIN received applications requesting a total of $12.9 million in virtual care support, underscoring the high demand for telehealth services across our network. The 24 award recipients will receive support through a variety of customized remote care packages, including distribution of:
220 Virtual Clinic-At-Home packages to support providers delivering telehealth at home
679 Hypertension Management packages for managing patients’ blood pressure
356 Diabetes Management packages for managing patients’ blood sugar
445 Device & Service packages (including laptops, headsets, webcams, phones/data plans, remote patient monitoring devices, and other essential tools to enhance connectivity)
Subsidized by the FCC through funds allocated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, OCHIN’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program will help drive health equity by expanding access to robust telehealth services for patients in COVID-19 hotspots, who are unable to travel to their providers.
For example, a clinic in California serving predominantly Hispanic/Latino patients that treated more than 3,000 hypertensive patients last year will use its award, in part, to provide 300 home-use blood pressure cuffs for patients with uncontrolled hypertension, as well as obstetrics patients who are at risk for preeclampsia. And another clinic in Ohio will use part of its award to provide remote care for socioeconomically disadvantaged patients who are battling depression, in addition to managing diabetes or hypertension.
Studies show that remote care, facilitated by telehealth, is equally beneficial for many patients, compared with in-person care. That’s why OCHIN also supports innovative research projects like the BP Home study, testing the comparative effectiveness of home blood pressure monitors to determine which monitors help patients manage their high blood pressure most effectively at home. Led by the University of California at San Francisco in collaboration with the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, it is the first nationwide randomized controlled trial conducted with OCHIN network patients—500 of the total 2,000 participants nationwide. Access to these home monitoring devices, along with instructional materials developed by the BP Home study team, aids patients taking part in the study to report their home readings to their providers, allowing for seamless blood pressure monitoring and real-time care coordination, which is vital during COVID-19.
The BP Home Study is just one example of the many ways that remote monitoring and telemedicine can be applied to improve health outcomes by empowering patients at home. We look forward to sharing the full list of COVID-19 Telehealth Program recipients and their stories in the coming months.