The shortage of available health care services in rural areas in the U.S. may be mitigated by accessing telehealth services, especially for direct-to-consumer (DTC) telehealth. DTC telehealth is defined as patient-initiated telehealth care, typically from their home. While considerable evidence supports the use of telehealth, additional well-designed studies are needed to identify the best applications of telehealth services to increase access in rural settings. To address these needs, the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has been offering grant funding to existing telehealth networks to further expand their services to rural areas.
Specific to this project, OAT released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) (HRSA 21-082) for the Evidence Based Telehealth Network Program (EB TNP) focused on DTC telehealth. In September 2021, OAT identified 11 grantees to receive 5 years of funding. The NOFO specified that the grantees would submit data to the Rural Telehealth Research Center (RTRC) on patients who receive DTC telehealth and on a comparable group of patients who receive in-person services. The NOFO specified that RTRC would identify data collection elements and protocols, and subsequently serve as the data coordinating center for this grant program.
The objective of this project is to contribute to the evidence base for telehealth in rural settings by pooling data collected across EB TNP grantees on the services they offer through DTC telehealth and in-person care related to primary care, urgent care, behavioral health, substance use disorder, maternal care, and/or chronic care management services. Pooling data will be possible by using a standardized set of data elements related to access/utilization, cost/efficiency, and clinical outcomes.
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