ChristianaCare awarded FCC grant to expand COVID-19 telemedicine program

ChristianaCare has received a $714,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH

ChristianaCare is one of only 17 health care providers in the U.S. and the first health system in Delaware to date to receive a grant under the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The funding is part of the recently enacted CARES Act, which appropriated $200 million to the FCC to support health care providers using telehealth during this national emergency.

ChristianaCare will use the grant to support its COVID-19 Telemedicine Program. The program will expand existing telehealth capabilities by increasing broadband access to telehealth services for vulnerable and underserved residents in Delaware by providing devices and data plans.

It will also offer on-site telehealth services to communities with high disease burden and challenges accessing virtual health services. Access to broadband telehealth services enables COVID-19 patients to safely remain at home in isolation instead of presenting to hospital facilities for further evaluation and care.

To expand telehealth capacity, ChristianaCare gave dozens of health care providers equipment and training to conduct virtual visits using an interactive telehealth program.

“Before COVID-19, ChristianaCare was charting a course to transform care based on the vision that all care that can be done in the home, in the community or on a smartphone will be done in the home, in the community or on a smartphone,” said Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, ChristianaCare president and CEO.

“This transformation has accelerated exponentially during the pandemic, because at this time, the safest place for our patients is in their home. The technology supported by this grant will ensure that patients receive the right care, at the right time and in the right place, dramatically lowering the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ChristianaCare established a comprehensive and sophisticated COVID-19 virtual provider visit and interactive telehealth program. The program leverages telemedicine visits with a provider for those individuals who have coronavirus symptoms or for those who have already tested positive and are symptomatic.

“The technology supported by this grant will ensure that patients receive the right care, at the right time and in the right place, dramatically lowering the risk of spreading COVID-19,” said President and CEO Dr. Janice Nevin.

A key component of the program is the remote monitoring of these individuals by ChristianaCare’s CareVio care management program through secure text messaging. This ongoing monitoring connects patients with a registered nurse who monitors their condition several times per day to make sure the patient is improving. If the patient’s condition begins to deteriorate, a provider telemedicine visit is scheduled.

Since the crisis began, CareVio has monitored more than 1,500 patients and more than 1,000 patients have had a telemedicine visit with the COVID-19 practice. CareVio has also called more than 4,400 patients following COVID-19 testing, ensuring they have a primary care provider and answering questions.

Sharon Anderson, MS, BSN, RN

“The funding from the FCC grant will enable ChristianaCare to implement the required infrastructure, hire and train resources, acquire the necessary hardware and broadband devices, and successfully expand our transformative model for COVID-19 care,” said Sharon Anderson, MS, BSN, RN, FACHE, chief virtual health officer at ChristianaCare.

“Providing broadband telehealth services to our disconnected, vulnerable patients and neighborhoods will not only ease the burden of COVID-19, but will certainly help build a telemedicine foundation to address disparities in access to care, including primary and specialty care, that extends beyond COVID-19.”

“I’m grateful to ChristianaCare for their innovation in delivering health using telemedicine and to the FCC for making these funds available so quickly to address our community’s needs during the pandemic,” said Senator Chris Coons, whose office provided support for ChristianaCare’s application. “This grant will lay the foundation for even more improvements in access to health care among our most vulnerable communities.”

“One of the fundamental goals of the CARES Act was to assist our health care systems and ensure all Delawareans could continue to receive safe, quality care during this public health crisis,” said Senator Tom Carper. “This federal funding will help ChristianaCare continue to diagnose and treat our community through expanded telehealth services, which will also help keep our health care workers and patients safe, Now, more than ever, we need to be looking out for each other, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. I’m pleased that this funding will help ensure that more Delawareans can connect with trusted health care providers even from home.”

“We’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 crisis the importance of telemedicine. Delawareans being able to access quality care from their homes while continuing to practice social distancing is critical during this difficult time,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “I’m very pleased that ChristianaCare has received funding from the FCC to expand their telemedicine services.”