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Federal funding targeted to expanding Roswell Park’s telehealth capabilities
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins announced Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center will receive $600,456 in federal funding to expand telehealth services to Western New Yorkers. The funding, included by Congress in the CARES Act, is distributed through the Federal Communication Commission’s COVID-19 telehealth program. Both Schumer and Higgins reached out to the FCC to advocate on behalf of Roswell Park.
“This federal funding for cutting-edge telemedicine is just what the doctor ordered for Roswell Park and will enhance their compassionate and superb cancer treatment capabilities,” Schumer said. “Bringing their world-class care into the homes of their patients is not only a necessary step in stopping the spread of COVID-19, but also a welcome development for many patients who would otherwise be facing a cumbersome commute and medical appointment.”
Higgins said, “Those with preexisting conditions, including patients fighting cancer, are at greater risk of infection, adding a new level of anxiety to families already faced with a great deal of stress. We never want to see those in need of care go without it. This brings the medical expertise of Roswell Park into the homes of the people it serves.”
Thomas Furlani, Ph.D., chief information officer and professor of oncology at Roswell Park, said, “These important federal funds help cover the costs of making our clinical care available through virtual visits and supporting remote work so that we could dramatically reduce the number of people on our campus when we most needed it — both critical elements of our contribution to flattening the coronavirus curve in our region. “This program helps make sure that health care providers like Roswell Park have the resources they need to provide care effectively despite all the changes that COVID-19 required.”
This federal funding supports network upgrades, security equipment, teleconferencing software licenses and other technology needs to expand Roswell Park’s telehealth reach through the existing MyRoswell patient portal, as well as telework capability for more than 1,000 employees.
Roswell Park’s patient population, many of whom are severely immunocompromised, is at particular risk of contracting COVID-19. The new health technology infrastructure allows Roswell Park to see up to half of the more than 1,000 patients it sees daily through virtual visits. Implementation will reduce exposure for at-risk patients and better support remote working for clinical and non-clinical staff.
“The ability to see and advise our patients through virtual visits was incredibly important over the last few months, an essential part of our program for maintaining needed care in the middle of a pandemic,” says Roswell Park gynecologic oncologist Emese Zsiros, M.D., Ph.D. “I was remotely seeing 15 or 20 patients a day during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. They were really comforted by knowing we could still address their needs, and it was reassuring for providers, too. It allowed us to see our patients in their home environments. Sometimes they would show us pictures of their grandkids, introduce us to family members – things they wouldn’t normally bring up.”
The CARES Act included $200 million to support telehealth services and expand related technology during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 telehealth program has distributed more than $104 million in funding to 305 nonprofit and public health care providers across 38 states and Washington, D.C.