Digital health a hub as HHS makes $5M available to COVID researchers

How has digital health contributed to the fight against COVID-19? What kinds of outcomes has it produced? What have been some unintended consequences of its deployment?

Those are among the questions HHS is hoping researchers will step up to answer. The branch has set aside $5 million to cover costs for the work, according to a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) posted May 14.

Along with digital health—within which telemedicine is likely to be the dominant category—HHS is keenly interested in finding out how hospitals and other healthcare providers have served high-risk patients, maintained safety and improved care quality during the COVID crisis.  

HHS will allocate the funds for research projects it deems deserving through its Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The intent is to encourage researchers across multiple areas of expertise to move fast enough that initial findings are available within six months after the funds are received.

Awarded researchers will be expected to update AHRQ with subsequent findings throughout fiscal year 2020.  

Submission deadline for the FOA, titled “Novel, High-Impact Studies Evaluating Health System and Healthcare Professional Responsiveness to COVID-19,” is June 15.

In press materials, HHS secretary Alex Azar says the short turnaround times are essential to streamlining the present pandemic response and warding off future outbreaks.

AHRQ adds that the funding will be made available for relevant research in all healthcare settings. It lists as examples primary care and other ambulatory care settings, pre-hospital care, long-term and nursing home care, home healthcare, mental health and substance-use care, pharmacy, and transitions of care between settings.