Four Hawaii safety net organizations received a combined $143,000 in grants this month to expand telehealth services to low-income and communities experiencing homelessness. Virtual Care Innovation Network worked in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente to allocate the funding.
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See a breakdown of the funding below:
- $57,000 each to the Community Clinic of Maui in Wailuku and Hawai‘i Health and Harm Reduction Center in Honolulu
- $17,000 to West Hawaii Community Health Center in Kailua-Kona
- $12,000 to Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services in Honolulu
Robert Hirokawa, chief executive officer of the Hawaii Primary Care Association, commended the move in a statement.
“The Virtual Care Innovation Network funding has helped our health centers in Hawaii expand access to virtual care through homeless outreach programs and also street medicine programs.”
Telehealth access is becoming a vital service for Hawaii, not only during the pandemic, but because communities may face geographic barriers to care. Solutions to expanding care are taking place at the state and national level.
Earlier this month, Gov. David Ige encouraged an estimated 100,000 eligible households in Hawaii to take advantage of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This program, which currently serves 9,000 households, provides monthly discounts of $50‒$75 on broadband service, as well as discounts for purchasing electronic devices from participating providers.
In June, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III (D-West Virginia) introduced the Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act, which would make Medicare flexibilities permanent for telehealth services. In an interview with HIMSS TV this summer, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii spoke of telehealth’s rising necessity.
“It’s extraordinarily important for a couple reasons,” he said. “You may live on Hawaii island, and the expert is on Oahu … or in New York City. And this gives you access to the best physicians on the planet.”
Funding for the four Hawaii safety net organizations was part of Kaiser Permanente’s national telehealth outreach, with a total of $2.37 million given to 59 organizations serving vulnerable communities across the nation.