After a little more than a year on the job, Matthew Quinn, director of healthcare initiatives at the Federal Communications Commission, has left his position to move to the private sector.

As the FCC’s first director of healthcare initiatives, Quinn was to serve for a maximum of four years. However, instead he has left the FCC after a short stint to become East Coast managing director for healthcare and life sciences at Intel Corp.

Quinn came to the FCC in April 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology where he served a health IT usability scientist, and previously spent time at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. He was recruited in direct response to a September 2012 recommendation by the FCC’s mHealth Task Force that the new position should provide a "single point of contact for addressing healthcare-related barriers and opportunities."

The mHealth Task Force has a goal that "by 2017 mHealth, wireless health and e?Care solutions will be routinely available as part of best practices for medical care." Also among his responsibilities, Quinn was to help ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities have the required connectivity to power medical devices that use spectrum. The FCC sees broadband technology as a much-needed solution for the nation’s increasingly overburdened healthcare system. Though mHealth technologies have rapidly proliferated over recent years, in large part due to the availability of broadband and healthcare apps for mobile devices, in many respects the pace of policy-making has lagged advances in technology in the highly regulated healthcare space.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration--in collaboration with the FCC and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT--released the federal government's proposed strategy for regulating HIT. The draft risk-based regulatory framework for health IT, mandated by the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), is meant to promote innovation, protect patient safety, and avoid regulatory duplication.

According to Bradley Merrill Thompson, an attorney at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Epstein Becker Green who counsels medical device companies on regulatory issues, Quinn’s departure from FCC is “a setback for the mobile health initiative and comes at a critical time,” as the three agencies are finalizing their FDASIA report.

“I'm hoping that the final report is largely written, and is now being reviewed by senior management at the three agencies for approval,” said Thompson. “If it is not done, I fear that Matt's departure will delay the completion of that report.”

“Regardless, we are on the verge of significant changes in the way health information technology is regulated, and whoever is asked to fill Matt’s shoes will be starting the race a good distance behind the line,” he added. “Matt has spent the last year deeply involved in the FDASIA process, listening to all the different stakeholders. Whoever comes in will be at a disadvantage not having lived through that feedback process.”

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