- HIMSS and the Personal Connected Health Alliance are urging the Federal Communications Commission to pursue policies that speed adoption of and access to broadband-enabled healthcare solutions.
- In joint comments to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, the groups called for flexible systems and regulations that can be adapted to the needs of local communities. They also seek an end to retrospective discounting in the Rural Health Care Program and more short-term access to broadband connections for individuals to facilitate remote patient monitoring of chronic conditions.
- The FCC should also allow reseller access to fixed and mobile broadband networks, similar to how telephone networks work, to enable multiple contracts across diverse healthcare systems, they said.
Under the President Barack Obama's administration, the commission’s Connect2HealthFCC Task Force engaged with a broad palette of stakeholders to advance the role of broadband in public health.
In August, the task force launched an online tool called Mapping Broadband Health in America to help providers and others identify areas with high health needs and determine if the infrastructure exists for broadband-enabled interventions. At the time, then-FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said broadband access was increasingly a “super-determinant of health.”
Efforts have slowed significantly since President Donald Trump moved into the White House. Pai put a hold on a 2016 plan to subsidize nine companies set to offer broadband internet through the commission’s Lifeline program for low-income individuals and families. The move could hamper efforts to expand telehealth, which typically requires patients to have access to high-speed internet, reducing the impact of associated savings.
According to a recent Rural Broadband Association analysis, telehealth services correlate with annual per-facility savings of $5,718 in travel expenses and $3,431 in lost wages to patients, as well as $20,841 in savings for hospitals.
Also of note, the FCC is also looking to change the rules on net neutrality. Last month, the commission announced plans to draft new rules that would give internet service providers more say in prioritizing information on their networks — effectively ending net neutrality. The offshoot could be fewer telehealth services, at higher cost and slower speeds, in rural and underserved communities.