To help offset the costs of expanding its telemedicine capacity by a “hundredfold” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that it is awarding a $1 million grant to Mayo Clinic.

The grant comes from the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which has provided $13.7 million to 30 health care providers in 16 states.

Dr. Steve Ommen, the medical director for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Connected Care, explained that this money will be used to cover some of the costs that the clinic incurred during a rapid ramp-up of telemedicine services in March.

“In response to the public health emergency, we knew we had to take care of patients differently than we traditionally had,” he said.

One aspect of that meant redeploying equipment inside all of Mayo Clinic’s facilities to allow doctors to remotely examine patients who require isolation.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“It’s about keeping both the patients safer and keeping the health care workers safe,” Ommen said.

Mayo Clinic also outfitted about 100 nursing centers in the region with equipment to allow remote examination of patients where they live.

“We can evaluate this high-risk population without exposing them unnecessarily,” he said.

The program also deployed equipment to remote-monitor COVID-19 patients in their homes

“We did this all on the spur of the moment in response to this crisis to make sure Mayo Clinic could continue to serve its mission,” Ommen said. “This could represent a fork in the road for health care … where even after the crisis passes, people will experience getting health care differently than before.”

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 507-285-7798.