The Federal Communications Commission is seeking industry comment and data on accelerating the adoption and accessibility of broadband-enabled healthcare, particularly in rural and underserved communities.
“Ensuring that everyone is connected to the people, services and information they need to get well and stay healthy is an important challenge facing our nation,” states the FCC’s April 24 public notice. “The future of modern healthcare appears to be fundamentally premised on the widespread availability and accessibility of high-speed connectivity.”
While broadband-enabled health IT has the potential to improve the quality of care and significantly reduce healthcare costs, the FCC contends that United States lags behind other advanced countries in the adoption of such technology.
The agency’s public notice is an attempt to gather input from industry stakeholders on a wide range of regulatory, policy, technical and infrastructure issues related to broadband-enabled healthcare. Ultimately, the feedback will be used to inform the work and recommendations of the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force, which was created in 2014 to accelerate the adoption of HIT technologies by leveraging broadband and other next-generation communications services.
Recently, the FCC decided to continue the work of the Connect2Health Task Force, which serves as an umbrella for all the FCC’s health-related activities, with the charge of ensuring the agency has the data it needs to identify areas with limited broadband access and very high healthcare needs.
Among the topics the FCC is looking for comment on are how to:
- Promote effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage broadband adoption and promote health IT
- Identify regulatory barriers and incentives to the deployment of RF-enabled healthcare tools
- Strengthen the nation’s telehealth infrastructure through the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program and other initiatives
- Enable the development of broadband-enabled health technologies that are designed to be fully accessible to people with disabilities
- Highlight effective telehealth projects, broadband-enabled health technologies and mHealth applications to identify lessons learned, best practices, and regulatory challenges
“The emerging broadband health ecosystem includes healthcare providers, public health and social service agencies, innovators and entrepreneurs, academic and research facilities, state and local policymakers, patients and their caregivers, as well as fixed and wireless broadband companies,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in a written statement.
“I encourage entities from each of these sectors to provide us with detailed comments,” Clyburn added. “As the Task Force’s Beyond the Beltway series reaffirmed, we benefit the most when all relevant stakeholders collaborate to bridge health disparities. By working together, I know we can narrow the digital and opportunities divide to ensure much needed health and wellness solutions reach all Americans.”
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