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FCC Requests Broadband-Enabled Healthcare Information

Wireless broadband technology is growing more significant to health IT infrastructure and the FCC is collecting information to improve nationwide connectivity efforts.

FCC says wireless broadband-enabled health IT will improve patient care.

Source: Thinkstock

- The FCC released a public notice seeking comments and data on actions to accelerate the adoption and accessibility of broadband-enabled healthcare solutions and advanced technologies. Increased wireless network technology will help improve patient care.

The public notice stated that broadband networks are becoming more significant to the national wellbeing and that maximizing their availability will enable all Americans to take advantage of 21st century healthcare.

The FCC is seeking information on how it can assist in the adoption and accessibility of broadband enabled healthcare solution, particularly in rural areas. The information will help the Commission identify specific areas where broadband connectivity is lacking.

The public notice seeks comment, data, and information on a range of regulatory, policy, technical, and infrastructure issues related to the advancing WiFi enabled healthcare technology.

The FCC is seeking input from a broad range of participants including health systems, community health centers, clinicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, allied health professionals, public health and social service agencies and organizations. The agency is also seeking the input of broadband innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as academic and research facilities.

Specific topics for comment comprised in the public notice include:

  • Promoting effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage broadband adoption and promote health IT.
  • Identifying regulatory barriers (and incentives) to the deployment of RF-enabled health care tools.
  • Assessing the spectrum and wireless infrastructure needs for the future of healthcare in the United States.
  • Strengthening the nation’s telehealth infrastructure through the FCC’s Rural Health Care (RHC) Program and other initiatives.
  • Raising consumer awareness about the value proposition of broadband in the healthcare sector and its potential for addressing health care disparities.
  • Fostering the development of broadband-enabled health technologies that are designed to be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Highlighting effective telehealth projects, broadband-enabled health technologies, and mHealth applications across the country and abroad—to identify lessons learned, best practices, and regulatory challenges.
  • Engaging a diverse array of traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to identify emerging issues and opportunities in the broadband health space.

“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,” the FCC said in a statement. “Technology innovations in clinical practice and care delivery coupled with burgeoning consumer reliance on mHealth and health information technology (or health IT) are fundamentally changing the face of health care, and a widespread, accessible broadband infrastructure is critical to this ongoing shift.”

The Commission believes that the future of modern healthcare relies heavily on the widespread availability and accessibility of high-speed connectivity. The FCC works to improve the quality of healthcare using advanced technology and recognizes that better broadband speeds and more reliable connections are the key to providing top tier healthcare nationwide.

“By some estimates, broadband-enabled health information technology can help to improve the quality of health care and significantly lower health care costs by hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades,” said the FCC. “However, the United States remains behind some advanced countries in the adoption of such technology.”

The FCC created the Connect2Health Task Force, which charts the progress of broadband technology and will use the data collected to make informed decisions about the future of connected health.

Telehealth and telemedicine are two in-demand areas that require better and faster broadband connections.

Healthcare accounts for a significant portion of the US GDP and healthcare costs are expected to increase over the next several years, according to the FCC. The healthcare industry could face a physician shortage that will most likely impact rural communities.

Expanding the use of broadband and ensuring that healthcare organizations are getting the best technology possible will help rural communities take advantage of telehealth and telemedicine.

“While broadband is not a complete answer, there are a growing number of broadband-enabled solutions that can play an important role in improving population health,” explained the FCC. “Addressing health needs beyond the hospital; expanding access to primary, acute, preventive and specialist care, especially for those Americans living in rural and underserved areas; providing more cost-effective solutions; improving the quality of care; and better engaging consumers in their health.”