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July 7 -- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services, invites comments to OMB by August 11, 2023 regarding HRSA Telehealth Outcome Measures. (Comments due 30 days after HRSA submission to OMB on July 12.)

The Telehealth Network Grant Program is authorized by Section 330I of the Public Health Service Act. The Health Care Safety Net Amendments of 2002 (Public Law 107-251) amended the Public Health Service Act by adding Section 330I. Under this authority, grants may be awarded to eligible entities to develop telehealth network projects in rural areas, in medically underserved areas, in frontier communities, and for medically underserved populations, to (a) expand access to, coordinate, and improve the quality of health care services; (b) improve and expand the training of health care providers; and (c) expand and improve the quality of health information available to health care providers, and patients and their families.

The primary objective of the Telehealth Network Grant Program is to help communities build the human, technical, and financial capacity to develop sustainable telehealth programs and networks. The data collected with the performance measurement tool provides HRSA’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) with information about outcome measures including the effectiveness of service programs and monitor their progress through the use of performance reporting data. In addition, the data collected from grantees meets the administrative requirement of assessing programs via the Government Performance Review Act of 1993 (GPRA).

The Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP) awards demonstration grants to networks that show how telehealth technologies can expand access to quality healthcare; improve and expand training of healthcare providers; and expand and improve the quality of health information available to providers and patients. Because the primary focus of the program has been to fund grantees to build and demonstrate the usefulness and financial viability of telehealth systems in providing health care, this tool provides the needed measures to determine the program's impact on clinical outcomes. As required by GPRA, all federal agencies must develop strategic plans describing their overall goal and objectives. HRSA’s OAT has worked with its grantees to develop performance measures to be used to evaluate and monitor the progress of the grantees. Specific categories were designed to be reported through a performance monitoring website.   

The HRSA’s OAT was established in 1998 with the mission to lead, coordinate and promote the use of telehealth technologies by fostering partnerships within HRSA and other Federal agencies, states and private sector groups to expand the field of telehealth by: administering telehealth grant programs; providing technical assistance; assessing technology investment strategies; developing distance learning and training programs for health care providers; evaluating the use of telehealth technologies; developing telehealth policy initiatives to improve access to quality health services; and promoting knowledge about “best practices.” HRSA envisions the use of telehealth technology playing an integral role in facilitating linkages between health care institutions over distance to improve access to quality health care services in this nation and provide educational opportunities or those who would otherwise not have or would have difficulty accessing such opportunities.

OAT is the operational focal point for advancing the cost-effective use of telehealth technologies throughout HRSA. OAT is responsible for allocating and administering funds, evaluating programs and their impact on the population served, and improving the quantity and quality of care. The data collection tool extracts valuable information on services provided that are critical to the mission of HRSA and provides valid and complete information about methods used to measure the impact of the telehealth program on improving access to healthcare services for residents of communities that did not have such services locally before the program. Projects are able to measure the impact of the telehealth program on rural hospitalization rates and emergency room visit rates per year for patients receiving disease management services for diabetes, congestive heart failure, stroke and other chronic diseases, as well for patients receiving home care/home monitoring services. Projects can measure impact of the telehealth program on controlling blood glucose levels in diabetic patients and can assure the impact of the telehealth program improving efficiency of health care. In addition, projects also measure the impact of the telehealth program on reducing medical errors and collect data to measure other clear outcomes.  

Additionally, the performance measurement tool allows OAT to:

-- Fulfill obligations for GPRA requirements and to report to Congress on impact of the OAT Telehealth Network Grant Program;
justify budget requests;
-- create a data-reporting tool for grantees to report on their projects’ performance relative to the mission of OAT/HRSA as well as individual goals and objectives of the program;
-- collect uniform, consistent data which enables OAT to monitor programs;
-- provide guidance to grantees on important indicators to track over time for their own internal program management;
-- identify topics of interest for future special studies;  
-- identify changes of healthcare needs to rural communities allowing programs to shift focus in order to meet those needs, thereby improving -- -- access to needed services;
-- reduce rural practitioner isolation;
-- improve health system productivity and efficiency; and
-- enhance quality of care.

OAT: https://www.hrsa.gov/telehealth
HRSA submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202307-0915-001 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-14316

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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