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Health Centers Statewide Get $1.3M for Telehealth

HCF News Release

Fourteen Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) across the state, including Molokai Community Health Center, received $1.3 million in grant awards, the Freeman Foundation and Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) announced. With guidance from Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), the grants aim to increase access to and delivery of telehealth services at a time when such services are in greater demand due in part to stay-at-home orders and limited in-person appointments, and more people are relying on these centers overall for their medical needs.

“Throughout our work in the U.S. and Asia, we’ve seen how basic technology can facilitate connections and improve daily lives,” said Graeme Freeman, president of The Freeman Foundation. “More rapid adoption of telehealth in Hawaii means helping health providers for rural and underserved communities, as well as families who need better resources to see their doctors virtually.”

With an approach to health care based on locally tailored services, Community Health Centers (CHCs) on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui, Lanai and Molokai will receive the grants for telehealth infrastructure improvements and patient programs. This includes internet connectivity upgrades; telehealth software; specialized equipment for telehealth visits such as kiosks, digital thermometers, blood pressure monitors and scales; telehealth education for medical and behavioral health providers; educational material for patients; smartphones, tablets and webcams for both providers and patients.

The grants are made possible by a donation from The Freeman Foundation and administered by HCF. HMSA is a collaborator and partner with The Freeman Foundation and Hawaii Community Foundation in identifying the need for improved telehealth capacity.

“HMSA appreciates the generosity of The Freeman Foundation and is pleased to support our partners at the Community Health Centers to improve access to care and make telehealth more accessible for members of our local communities,” said Kathryn Matayoshi, senior vice president and chief community engagement officer at HMSA.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), FQHCs across the state served more than 160,000 patients in 2019, and more than 60 percent of which were covered by Medicaid or had no health insurance.

A recent University of Hawaii survey shows that FQHCs, public and private hospitals, independent health care providers, and rural health clinics want to provide more telehealth services but are limited by capacity and other issues such as internet connectivity, lack of funding for equipment and devices, limited staff training, and workflow challenges. More than half – 58 percent – of respondents did not start providing telehealth services until the COVID-19 pandemic.

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