FCC Launches Group To Promote Adoption of Health IT

The FCC announces the formation of a new task force named CONNECT2HEALTH that will focus on accelerating the adoption of health IT by making sure that the nation’s communications infrastructure, both broadband and other networks, is capable of supporting healthcare’s growing dependence on them.

The FCC has long been interested in healthcare and encouraging technology adoption in the healthcare industry. In 2012, the FCC launched a separate task force which focused on mobile and wireless healthcare technologies that published a report calling on government, academia, and industry to help with a nation-wide goal that “by 2017 mHealth, wireless health and e-Care solutions will be routinely available as part of best practices for medical care with appropriate reimbursement incentives." To this end, the FCC published the mHealth Task Force Findings and Recommendations, which identified known barriers to health IT adoption, and proposed solutions that the FCC could pursue.

In the time since publication, the FCC has been increasingly more active in the healthcare technology space. In January 2013, the FCC announced a $400 million investment fund that would focus on expanding national communications infrastructure to support telehealth and health information exchange programs so that rural communities that did not have access to broadband would be able to improve their local networks so that they could participate.

In April 2013, the FCC created a new Director of Health Care Initiatives position, and hired Matthew Quinn, formerly of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to the position. In that role, Quinn is responsible for “promoting communications technologies and services that improve the quality of health care for all citizens and help reduce health care costs; facilitating the availability of medical devices that use spectrum; and ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities have required connectivity.” 

In May 2013, the FCC ruled in favor of allowing medical device companies to use the same bandwidth previously reserved for flight communications testing. The decision opened airwaves to device manufacturers that were interested in bringing secure, but wireless, monitoring to hospitals. 

In its newest efforts, the FCC will focus on telehealth and how to expand the deployment and use of telehealth by care providers and patients nationwide. The group will be led by Michelle Ellison, the former Chief of the FCC’s Environment Bureau. Mrs. Ellison will work side-by-side with Matthew Quinn to promote “communications technologies and services that improve the quality of health care for all citizens and help reduce health care costs; facilitating the availability of medical devices that use spectrum; and ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities have required connectivity.”


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