FCC Awards UAB $1 Million for COVID Telehealth

FCC Awards UAB $1 Million for COVID Telehealth

Eric Wallace, MD

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has received $1 million from the Federal Communications Commission to facilitate the massive telehealth transition that occurred during the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The award will fund the purchase of iPads, webcams and remote patient monitoring devices. UAB will add additional telehealth carts in the emergency department and the maternal emergency unit to improve the ability to screen patients and reduce health care provider exposure. The hospital will also add telehealth carts in intensive care units and palliative care units to help patients connect with their loved ones during a time when visitation must be limited.

"This will benefit Alabama by expanding our telehealth infrastructure, which can expand access to care by enabling us to reach patients with whom we could not previously connect," said Eric Wallace, MD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and medical director of UAB eMedicine.

UAB eMedicine already utilizes telehealth carts to expand telehealth services to other hospitals to ensure access to subspecialty care such as infectious diseases, critical care, stroke and nephrology. The award will also fund expanded remote patient monitoring of patients with COVID-19, particularly for those at high risk of morbidity and mortality due to secondary conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease and hypertension.

Wallace and Curt Carver Jr., PhD, vice president of Information Technology/chief information officer at UAB, were recently named by Governor Ivey to serve on the Broadband Working Group to provide input and guidance on how to allocate funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The UAB award of $1 million, the maximum award given during this funding period, is one of 70 new awards by the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, totaling more than $31 million. To date, the FCC's COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 514 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., for a total of $189.27 million in funding.