The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made it a Happy Valentine’s Day for 29 health centers across the country when the agency awarded nearly $55 million in funding to improve virtual care.
The awards, announced on Feb. 14 by the HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), are designed to increase health care access and quality for underserved populations through virtual care such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital patient tools, and health information technology platforms.
The funding is part of the more than $7.3 billion in American Rescue Plan money that has been invested in community health centers over the past year to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the HHS said on its website.
“Virtual care has been a game-changer for patients, especially during the pandemic,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities.”
Health centers in 13 states and Puerto Rico were awarded between $1.07 million and $2 million each to develop, implement and evaluate innovative, evidence-based strategies that accomplish the following:
- Optimize the use of virtual care to increase access and improve clinical quality for underserved communities and vulnerable populations.
- Can be adapted and scaled across the Health Center Program.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, health centers have been mobilized to quickly expand their use of virtual care to maintain access to essential primary care services. The number of virtual visits rose from 478,333 in 2019 to 28.5 million in 2020, according to the HHS. The number of health centers offering virtual visits grew from 592 in 2019 to 1,362 in 2022.
HRSA-supported health centers, which total more than 1,400, are established to provide primary care to at-risk communities.
“Today’s awards will help ensure that new ways to deliver primary care are reaching the communities that need it most,” HRSA administrator Carole Johnson said. “Our funding will help health centers continue to expand their virtual work while maintaining their vital in-person services in communities across the country.”
For the full list of all 29 health centers that got the awards, visit the HRSA website.
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