U.S. Government Expands Telehealth Support: Opportunity for Retailers
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Many retail RD programs and services have a direct impact on product sales as one measure of return-on-investment. At the same time, retail RDs have added individual consults and tele-nutrition to their suite of offerings as they bring in dollars from an alternative revenue stream. Recent announcements by the federal government provide potential additional opportunity in this space for retail RDs.
In mid-August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced investments totally over $19 million designed to strengthen telehealth services in rural and underserved communities and expand telehealth innovation and quality nationwide. As about 15 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas and with health care access in these communities an even grader concern since the start of the pandemic, the telehealth component is targeted to improve their access to care.
Key areas where the dollars will be spent are as follows:
- Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP): More than $4 million is being awarded to nine health organizations to build sustainable tele-mentoring programs and networks in rural and medically underserved communities. The funding will help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.
- Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs): $4.55 million is being awarded to 12 regional and two national Telehealth Resource Centers to provide information, assistance, and education on telehealth to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or want to provide telehealth services to patients.
- Evidence-Based Direct to Consumer Telehealth Network Program (EB TNP): Approximately $4 million is being awarded to 11 organizations to help health networks increase access to telehealth services, to assess the effectiveness of telehealth care for patients, providers, and payers, and to expand access to health services in primary care, acute care, and behavioral health care.
- Telehealth Centers of Excellence (COE) program: $6.5 million is being awarded to two organizations to assess telehealth strategies and services to improve health care in rural medically underserved areas that have high chronic disease prevalence and high poverty rates. The Telehealth COEs will be located in academic medical centers and will serve as telehealth incubators to pilot new telehealth services, track outcomes, and publish telehealth research.
While it is unclear at this time if and how telenutrition services will be included in these initiatives, organizations in more than 25 states are receiving funding for these programs. A full list of the organizations by state is available here. If you’re company operates stores, RD programs, and/or telenutrition services in these states, there may be benefit in researching the contacts at these organizations responsible for the projects to see how your retailer could be involved.