SIM is helping practice sites connect to broadband

Adequate broadband capacity, including proper redundancies, are essential for providers to take advantage of technologies like telehealth, health information exchange, unified communications and cloud services, which help them coordinate care. However, many healthcare providers, especially those in rural areas of the state, lack adequate broadband capacity to effectively leverage new technologies in ways that transform healthcare delivery and outcomes. SIM has helped over 300 practices sites (both SIM practices and non-SIM practices) take advantage of the Federal Communications Commission’s Healthcare connect fund to gain/expand access to broadband through a partnership with the Colorado Telehealth Network.

The Healthcare Connect Fund is a federal program that provides support for high-capacity broadband connectivity to eligible health care providers and encourages the formation of state and regional broadband networks. Under the program, eligible practices can receive a 65 percent discount from the fund on all eligible expenses to gain or expand access to broadband. The program largely focuses on rural practice sites, but certain non-rural practices may also be eligible.

The bidding process for a practice to receive these funds can be a time consuming and daunting task for some practices, and the cost for doing this work out-of-pocket is simply not an option more often than not. With SIM funds, CTN is helping practices navigate this process in order to capitalize on this federal program. CTN actively engages in outreach to providers and is assisting them with everything from understanding the regulations and limitations of the program, to filling out the paperwork. To date, CTN has helped 196 practice sites gain/expand access to broadband through this program, and the goal is to reach 300 practices before the SIM initiative sunsets in July 2019. 

In addition to working with CTN, SIM will be working this year to align efforts with the Governor’s Office of Broadband of providing connectivity to broadband for Colorado health care providers, specifically targeting regions in the state that have zero or reduced access to broadband services. This work to align efforts comes on the heels of a bill signed by Governor John Hickenlooper last month to expand broadband service within rural Colorado. The bill is designed to allocate $100 million towards construction of infrastructure, which will increase internet download speed and allow more practices to gain/expand access to broadband.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming months, and feel free to reach out to the SIM office if you have any questions regarding this work.