CIO - The Federal Communications Commission is planning to launch a variety of initiatives to spur the development and adoption of broadband-enabled healthcare devices and applications, with the overriding goal of establishing mobile health technology as an industry best practice by 2017.
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Speaking at an event marking the release of a new report outlining recommendations for advancing mobile healthcare applications, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski touted the potential for intelligent, broadband-enabled devices to expand the range of services available to patients and ultimately improve the quality of care.
"You can look at virtually every vertical in the United States and the fact is that wired and wireless broadband is transforming that vertical," Genachowski said, citing innovative applications of broadband technology in fields such as education, energy and public safety. "And then of course there's healthcare. And we've seen over the last several years a steady stream of new examples of the ways that broadband technology, particularly wireless technology, can transform medicine."
Drawing on the recommendations of the mHealth report (available in PDF format here), Genachowski said he intends to circulate an order at the FCC to ease the rules for the experimental licenses the agency grants to companies to set up test beds for mobile health technologies before the year-end, a move aimed at expediting the development and commercialization of new devices and applications.
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Additionally, Genachowski outlined another order he intends to bring forward to make it easier for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to apply for FCC funding to boost their broadband capacity and transition to electronic medical records through a comprehensive overhaul of the agency's Rural healthcare Program.
The new mHealth report traces back to a summit that the FCC convened in June, bringing together experts from industry, academia and the government to sift through the challenges and opportunities of the nascent mobile health sector. Out of that effort emerged the mHealth Task Force, which drafted the report outlining recommendations to the FCC that was released on Monday at the headquarters of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Genachowski explained that since his confirmation to chair the FCC in 2009, he has positioned broadband as the central issue on the agency's agenda.
The commission has initiated a number of policies in the area of healthcare, including deepening its collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration and allocating spectrum for medical body area networks (MBANs), systems of sensors worn on the body that relay information about the patient to a medical facility.
"Basically, they untether patient at hospitals from the cords that connect them to various monitoring devices," Genachowski said.
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