Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) Consortium Funding
Non-rural eligible Health Care Providers (HCPs) may receive support as part of a consortium consisting of a majority rural HCP sites. In addition, ineligible HCP sites also may participate in a consortium and take advantage of lower contract prices often associated with consortia bulk-buying. The two major goals of the HCF are to increase access to broadband for eligible HCPs, especially those serving rural areas and to foster development and deployment of broadband health care networks.
Arkansas e-Link Consortium
In 2014, Arkansas e-Link initiated a consortium application to the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) Program in an effort to reduce broadband costs to Arkansas e-Link members when BTOP (Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program) funding expires June 30, 2016. The HCF Program provides a 65 percent discount on eligible expenses related to broadband connectivity.
UAMS Arkansas e-Link serves as the lead entity for the consortium and is legally and financially responsible for activities supported by the HCF Program. As consortium leader, UAMS Arkansas e-Link completes all the necessary paperwork and files all applications on behalf of Arkansas e-Link members.
What are benefits of being a member of the “Arkansas e-Link Consortium?”
- Receive up to 65% discount from USAC for broadband connectivity and/or network equipment costs beginning 7/1/2016. Pay only 35% of broadband-related expenses. Here are a few examples: circuits, routers, switches, firewalls, warranty (3 year), maintenance (3 year), network management services, and fiber network equipment.
- Competitive broadband costs from telecom vendors. To achieve the lowest broadband costs available, a Request for Proposal seeking competitive bidding for broadband went out to telecom vendors in fall of 2015. Whether or not your facility is deemed eligible by USAC, as an Arkansas e-Link member, you will benefit from competitive pricing.
- Arkansas e-Link manages applications, reports and monitors for changes. Arkansas e-Link submits, on behalf of consortium members, all forms and certifications and ensures compliance with requirements. Your responsibility is to provide the necessary information to Arkansas e-Link when requested and adhere to the Letter of Agency (LOA) covenant signed by your organization.
- Additional costs savings possible. You may shift Electronic Health Record (EHR), imaging, and/or VoIP services from your institutions’s existing (and possibly more expensive) lines to the e-Link network and receive a 65% discount rather than paying the 100% you are currently paying.
Which Arkansas e-Link members are eligible to receive USAC consortium discounts?
- Public or not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers, health centers serving migrants, community mental health centers, local health departments or agencies, post-secondary educational institutions/teaching hospitals/medical schools, or consortia of the above.
- Non-rural HCPs may participate in Healthcare Connect Fund if they belong to a consortium that has a majority of rural HCPs, however, only those non-rural HCPs that fit into one of the eligible categories listed above can receive support from the HCF. Other non-rural HCPs may participate in HCF-consortia and benefit from consortia rates that are offered by service providers or equipment vendors, but such HCPs are not eligible for HCF support.
- The largest HCPs (400 + patient beds) are eligible, however, support is capped at $30,000.
What are benefits of being on the “Arkansas e-Link Network?”
- Arkansas e-Link network meets reimbursement requirements outlined by major health insurance companies. Prior to billing for a telemedicine encounter, an attestation statement must be signed verifying:
- Data transmission is accomplished using a HIPAA-compliant network, with sufficient bandwidth and screen resolution to permit adequate interaction with the patient and assessment of behavioral and physical features.
- The network must maintain a log of connections, with time, date, and duration.
- Usage reports available. Ability to track telemedicine adoption in your organization.
- Video access to 1000+ endpoints. Healthcare entities comprised of 400+ hospitals, medical clinics, and behavioral health facilities.
- Interactive Video Equipment Maintenance. Applicable to Arkansas e-Link provided interactive video equipment only.
- Arkansas e-Link provides up-to-date clinical assessment tools. Each clinical cart is equipped with two devices:
- Electronic stethoscope with Bluetooth technology that allows you to hear, visualize, transmit and record body sounds.
- JedMed Horus scope (a handheld video system used for capturing images of the body) with attachments for ear, nose and throat, dermatology, ophthalmology, audiology, women’s health and general examinations.
- Telehealth training. Access to state-of-the-art Interactive Video Training Center. New telemedicine users may take the online course “Telehealth 101” to learn more about telemedicine. http://learntelehealth.org/event/telehealth-101-the-easy-basics-of-telehealth-telemedicine/all/
- Customer support. Clinical Memberships receive 24-7 access to remote technical support for acute and critical care by our team of 14 Video Network Specialists (where applicable). Educational Memberships receive access to remote on-the-spot connectivity support during business hours; next business day service for non-critical issues.
What about reimbursement for telehealth visits?
In the spring of 2015, Arkansas Governor Hutchinson signed legislation to encourage the use of telemedicine and authorize reimbursement and regulation of services provided through telemedicine. The new law requires health plans to cover telemedicine-provided physician services and reimburse physicians only on the same basis as in-person services. The law’s parity provisions for reimbursement became effective January 1, 2016 for all non-Medicaid health benefit plans and July 1, 2016 for Arkansas Medicaid. For more information, please visit http://arkansaselink.com/arkansas-telemedicine-law-arkansas-act-887/.
What telehealth programs are available?
The Arkansas e-Link network currently supports popular programs such as Arkansas SAVES (for stroke victims), TRIUMPH (for patients with spinal cord injuries), ANGELS (high-risk obstetrics), Baptist Health eICU, Arkansas Heart Hospital cardiology clinics, RSPMI (behavioral health), and more. In the near term we will see school-based clinics, more prison programs, specialty healthcare and other programs as providers develop them.
Arkansas Telehealth Benefits
- Provide healthcare at reduced expense, in more diverse locations and increase revenue as patient volume increases.
- There are opportunities to contract for specialized Telehealth services with hospital emergency rooms, medical clinics, behavioral health facilities, city/county detention centers, etc.