Federal Communications Commission

Author Archive

Our Role in the Broadband Health Care Revolution

August 17th, 2010 by Thomas Buckley - Manager, Rural Health Care Pilot Program

Chairman Genachowski visited Seattle Children’s Hospital Friday to witness first-hand how broadband can help deliver quality health care efficiently to areas that lack it. Back in 2001, Seattle Children’s started a telemedicine program to provide better access to specialized pediatric care throughout the Pacific Northwest. The hospital also has been a leader in telepsychiatry, which is one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas, according to the American Pychiatric Association. 

Broadband’s potentially transformative role in health care delivery was a major focus of the National Broadband Plan, and we are following through in many ways. We are in the midst of designing programs that would provide up to $400 million annually to support broadband networks capable of bringing high-quality health care to patients no matter where they live. We have gained valuable insight in how to support broadband-enabled health care through our existing Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The National Broadband Plan recommended creating a new program that will help build networks where they are lacking and provide ongoing support where there is a need for it. This is critical: up to 30 percent of rural clinics don’t have adequate broadband technology, and so can’t do things like offer remote video care, exchange MRIs and x-rays, or deliver health care records.
We want to engage the public in our reform process, and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing the changes is the vehicle for getting substantive comments and suggestions so we can adjust our proposals, as appropriate. Comments on these reform initiatives are due September 8th and reply comments are due September 23.
Beyond the Rural Health Care programs that I help oversee, the National Broadband Plan takes a comprehensive look at how broadband can play a role in the delivery of advanced health care. Following recommendations in the Plan, we have begun working with the FDA to streamline our review of wireless medical devices to provide more clarity for investors and innovators while protecting consumer safety. And within the Commission, there is a focus on freeing up more wireless spectrum, which can support devices that provide remote monitoring of a patient’s vital signs and let a doctor know, in real time, when a patient might be heading for trouble.
We’re glad the FCC can play a role in helping institutions like Seattle Children’s Hospital do the most important work there is: protecting the health and lives of all children, no matter where they live.

Getting It: the FCC's Role in Bringing Broadband to Health Care

June 28th, 2010 by Thomas Buckley - Manager, Rural Health Care Pilot Program

It's nice to hear from someone in the public that the FCC "gets it."

I heard just such a remark in California last month, when I had the opportunity to travel to the California Emergency Technology Fund's Rural Connection Workshop in Redding, California.  CETF, if you are not aware, is a non-profit organization established by the California Public Utilities Commission, which provides leadership throughout the state to accelerate the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities.

The Workshop provided a forum for community, state, local, and federal leaders to discuss broadband deployment progress made in California as well as obstacles still faced.  I was honored to provide an update on initiatives in the FCC's Rural Health Care Universal Service Program, including the Rural Health Care Pilot Program, and to hear the many helpful ideas and comments from attendees.

In case you haven't heard of the FCC's Pilot program, here's what it does in a nutshell: it helps build high-speed broadband connections that connect public and non-profit rural health clinics with medical centers in larger communities.  The Pilot is funding projects that will be able to provide rural America with real-time consultations with medical experts at research hospitals, using telemedicine to save lives and money, and bring other benefits that only robust broadband connections can bring in the information-intense world of health care.

I updated the attendees on the progress of the California Telehealth Network Pilot Project, which is eligible for $22 million under the Pilot Program to deploy a new state-wide network that plans to connect over 900 health care providers to facilitate mental illness counseling and improve patient-physician interaction for rural Californians.  Isolation makes treatment and preventive services a challenge.  The new network will address real problems for rural Californians who suffer disproportionately from depression, hypertension, asthma and cardiovascular disease. 

For this audience of rural health technologists, I held up the California project an excellent model of state-wide collaboration of healthcare, technology, government, and other stakeholders to bring the benefits of health IT throughout the state.  Example: some of the key groups of this project are the University of California Office of the President, and the UC Davis Health System, which serves as the legally and financially responsible partner for the project.  The project has also received a $3.3M pledge from the California Emerging Technology Fund and has been granted partial reimbursement for monthly network connection costs by the California Teleconnect Fund program of the California Public Utility Commission.  In April, AT&T won the bidding to deploy the network, and the project is now finalizing its funding commitment request.  Bottom line: the California Telehealth Network shows what states can accomplish when they combine resources to reach as many rural health care providers as possible so that health IT can improve health care delivery in rural areas.

It was when my presentation focused on the longer term goals for the Rural Health Care Program that the audience member chimed in.  I explained the lessons learned from the Pilot Program and the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan to create a permanent infrastructure program, transform our Internet Access Fund into a Broadband Access Fund, and fund data centers and administrative offices because they  are critical to delivering health IT.  It was this vision that prompted the audience member to say the FCC "gets it." 

We want to keep getting it.  So the Commission at its July 15 meeting will be voting on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which asks for public input on how best to improve, reform and expand the Rural Health Care program based on recommendations in the National Broadband Plan and on what we've learned from the Pilot. Meanwhile, you can post any ideas you have on using broadband to save lives and deliver health care efficiently on this blog.

Cross-posted to The Official FCC Blog.

Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones