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Community Care Cooperative launches $5 million campaign to boost telehealth

C3 said that telehealth capability is needed in order to better fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and will better serve patients when the crisis passes.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Community Care Cooperative, the accountable care organization that advances community-based care for MassHealth members through its network of 19 health centers throughout Massachusetts, has launched a $5 million campaign to greatly increase telehealth capacity in community health centers statewide.

C3 said that telehealth capability is needed in order to better fight the COVID-19 pandemic – and better serve health center patients when the pandemic is over.

C3 has also been awarded grants from the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau, individuals and charitable foundations totaling about $2.8 million to advance telehealth in Massachusetts in response to the coronavirus.

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Foundation and individual support comes from the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, the Landry Family Foundation, the Klarman Family Foundation, and Barbara and Amos Hostetter. Along with a lead grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation announced earlier this month, foundation and individual support makes up $1,850,000 of the $2.8 million total.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The grants are to be used to fight COVID-19 by increasing telehealth capacity through support of the Massachusetts FQHC Telehealth Consortium, which is made up of 30 community health centers throughout the state, including the 19 health centers that comprise C3. The funding will allow the consortium to add additional health centers to the telehealth effort to meet increasing demand.

Through the campaign, C3 will support telehealth capacity, training and infrastructure at community health centers statewide, focusing on hardware such as laptops, cameras and headsets; support for health center IT departments; remote-monitoring devices such as scales, blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors; a "lending library" of patient-side phones and tablets; home phlebotomy; project management; and developing a long-term strategy for telehealth that assesses facilitators and addresses barriers to implementation.

The DentaQuest Partnership grant enables C3 to add a telehealth dentistry component to its telehealth offerings, and to develop an oral health model that moves from procedure-based, fee-for-service dentistry to preventative well care.

THE LARGER TREND

In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services temporarily removed regulatory requirements to give hospitals greater ability to treat an influx of patients with COVID-19 while they also treat those in need of other types of care.

Services typically provided by hospitals such as cancer procedures, trauma surgeries and other essential surgeries can be provided at non-hospital sites, while hospitals can bill for the services provided outside of their four walls. Ambulatory surgical centers will receive reimbursement at the hospital rate.

While making these changes permanent will required an act of Congress, it may be moved to action due to telehealth's increasing popularity and legitimacy as a care model.

ON THE RECORD

"With the social distancing required to fight COVID-19, telehealth has become an absolute necessity in providing primary and dental care, and we urgently need to extend that access to the most vulnerable of Massachusetts' residents," said Christina Severin, president and CEO of C3. "With the generous support we are announcing today, we come closer to our $5 million campaign goal and greatly increase our capacity to help our community health centers to better serve the needs of the commonwealth's Medicaid patients."

"Nothing should stand in the way of patients getting essential care," said Beth Klarman, president and trustee of the Klarman Family Foundation. "That's why we are proud to help scale transformative tools – like telehealth – that expand access to care, including behavioral health. We hope these innovations shape healthcare's 'new normal.'"

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com