Technological advances have brought many improvements to modern life, and today’s broadband networks can actually deliver health care and health information that saves lives. The lightning-fast evolution of broadband technology has indeed begun a revolution in health care—one that can benefit us all.
Innovations in broadband technologies have also raised questions about how health care providers and institutions alike can maximize the benefits of this technology, both today and into the future. The Eighth Annual National Health IT Week, held this year from September 16th–20th, presented an opportunity for policymakers and health care industry leaders to gather and discuss solutions and craft policies and strategies to ensure continued adoption and development of these health IT innovations.
Over the course of just a few years, broadband-enabled health care technologies, including telemedicine and mHealth, have presented new possibilities to hospitals, medical personnel, and patients. The ability to access and transmit health records, information, and diagnostic images at unprecedented speeds allows easier, more effective collaboration between medical personnel, resulting in quicker diagnoses and better results. Video teleconferencing is now being used to connect patients in rural or remote areas with specialists who can perform consultations remotely. Across the country, hospitals and clinics are using innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in cost-effective ways.
Increased access to high-speed broadband has given patients access to technologies and solutions that are more convenient, as well. With modern networks and connectivity, it’s now possible for patients with chronic conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma—to receive care in their own homes, via wireless devices that can collect and transmit medical data directly to health care professionals. These methods eliminate the need for some office visits, keeping costs down, and they also empower patients to take charge of their health and participate in their own treatment. New developments in wireless health devices are helping seniors and people with disabilities to enjoy a higher quality of life and to live independently in their own homes. Innovative new wireless devices, wearable biosensors, and mobile apps make it possible for patients and doctors to work together to achieve better health and wellness, both within and outside of medical facilities.
Modern networks allow hospitals and medical personnel to reach individuals and communities that have traditionally struggled to gain access to health care, often due to geographical, financial, or cultural barriers. Reducing health disparities that affect certain populations is an important goal, and broadband-enabled health care technologies can help achieve that goal by making patient-centered, cost-effective care available to more people and communities.
Access to modern broadband networks and speeds has already begun to transform and improve today’s health care. The resulting innovations offer exciting possibilities for enhanced health and wellness, improved quality of care, expanded access to health care, and better treatment options. To continue this progress and these impressive results, we will need enhanced, upgraded broadband networks in place across the country. The theme of this year’s Health IT Week was “One Voice, One Vision.” That’s fitting, because I believe we all share a positive vision of advancing health care technologies that lead to better outcomes. It is clear that increased and expanded access to high-speed broadband can extend the reach of doctors and hospitals, delivering better care and better access to care.
Neal Neuberger is President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies.
Via Edmund DeMarche of Fox News, a hospital in Pennsylvania is tackling a decidedly modern problem:
[A] psychiatric hospital in central Pennsylvania is now set to become the country’s first facility of its kind to offer an inpatient treatment program for people it diagnoses with severe Internet addiction.
The voluntary, 10-day program is set to open on Sept. 9 at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center. The program was organized by experts in the field and cognitive specialists with backgrounds in treating more familiar addictions like drug and alcohol abuse.
“[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. “The Internet is free, legal and fat free.”
Safe to say there won’t be online consultations available.
Via Clint Boulton of the Wall Street Journal, GE is making a big investment in eHealth:
General Electric Co. Tuesday said it is investing $2 billion over the next five years to build software that could improve operational and clinical processes in the health care industry.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake as hospitals upgrade their computer systems in order to mee new federal guidelines mandated by the Affordable Health Care Act. GE is hoping to cash in on some of those upgrades by jump-starting the development of health care systems and applications.
Over at Rolling Out, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has a piece on how technology can help lead to healthier lives, particularly in minority communities. Here’s a taste:
Broadband Internet access, especially mobile broadband, can go a long way in terms of achieving the goals of improved health care access and affordability. According to comScore, smartphone ownership is at 54 percent in the U.S. That’s a lot of iPhones and Androids in the pockets of Americans across the map, and when it comes to health care information, Pew Research reports more than half (52 percent) of the people owning these gadgets report using them to access health or medical information.
In an op-ed for Politic365, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell (who is also on of our Members) writes about the promise of healthcare powered by broadband for minority communities:
In 20 or 30 years, when we look back on today, we may realize that the most important medical enabler of the last generation is, ironically, high-speed broadband networks. After all, the doctor monitoring your heart and asking you questions during an online evaluation can’t do that using an old voice-centric telephone line. The broadband connection has to be robust and dynamic, capable of carrying the data-intensive traffic to and from patients and their doctors or healthcare specialists.
As FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said to a civil rights conference in Memphis, TN, “Access to broadband means access to better education, healthcare, job opportunities, news and information.” Policies affecting access to America’s communications revolution will have an immense role in the future of affordable healthcare.
That’s why telemedicine, including the potential for more accessible and affordable care, depends on the nationwide build out of high-speed broadband networks.
This is a guest post from Neal Neuberger, President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies. — IIA
Health care has been in the news a lot lately and rightly so. We are in the midst of a health care revolution, and actions taken during this period of transformation will have tremendous impact in the years and decades to come.
Three years ago in March, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. This revolutionary legislation overhauled the U.S. health care system and has already had far-reaching effects. However, the ACA is only one part of the transformation of health care in our country. In recent years, the intersection of health care and technology, particularly mobile technologies, has resulted in myriad new health care tools, which are already making a difference in how quality health care is accessed and delivered. Now, rural residents can receive a remote consultation from a specialist located across the country; patients with chronic conditions can receive care at home or while on the go with a wireless device; and people at any level of health can use mobile apps to monitor nutrition, wellness, or fitness.
Advancements in mHealth and telemedicine have transformed health care into a more accessible, patient-centered, convenient model that benefits individuals and families. And these advancements have also affected the entire health care community. Medical personnel—including doctors, nurses, and first responders—increasingly use these innovations to access and transmit health records, images, and information at incredible speeds, resulting in quicker diagnoses, effective and new treatments, and better outcomes. More and more, hospitals and clinics are turning to innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in convenient, cost-effective ways. These innovations are already saving lives and improving health care, and tomorrow’s technologies will no doubt build on this progress.
Or maybe not. Just a few weeks ago, members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology discussed a growing segment of the mobile technology market—mobile health care apps—and the possibility of taxing these apps and devices. Doing so could slow or stymie the incredible growth of this mobile health care technology (5% of smartphone users downloading an app to track or manage their health, according to a September 2012 Pew study). Don’t get me wrong: Government action is indeed needed to extend the progress that has been made in mobile health technologies; however, modern technologies require modern regulations that encourage both private sector investment and continued innovations.
Modern regulations are necessary for all modern technologies, not just health care-related apps and devices. That’s because it isn’t just wireless technology tools that are evolving: Americans are increasingly adopting wireline IP-enabled services, which deliver faster speeds and allow seamless communication between a variety of wireless and wired devices and platforms. And the infrastructure to support this array of wired and wireline services is transforming too. Old copper networks are being replaced by high-speed Internet Protocol (IP) networks that support a wider array of devices and data, with virtually limitless applications for improving our lives. These networks, combined with wireline and wireless IP-enabled services, offer greater capabilities and can also spur high-tech developments. This modern, robust infrastructure will enable continued advancements in health care technology, in addition to more possibilities and opportunities for every aspect of modern life.
However, like innovative health care technologies, the changeover to all IP networks is, to a certain extent, at the mercy of regulators. Smart, light-touch regulation will hasten this needed transition, but the application of outdated regulations designed for 20th century telephonic technologies could stall progress. This transition has the potential to improve and enrich our lives and our communities. It can expand and enhance the resources available to people, from education and health care resources to social and professional opportunities. I, for one, hope the government is smart about it. Smart action will help us and our communications networks to stay hale and healthy.
At an event hosted by the Hudson Institute earlier today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai discussed the transition to all-IP networks. During his speech, Pai spoke of two paths the Commission could take when it comes to regulations and technology. One path is rooted in the past — and outdates rules — that could hinder investment and innovation. The other path leads to the future, or the “all-IP world,” as he called it, which has great benefits for health care, education, public safety, and most of all consumers.
Noting that the FCC up until now had a foot on each path, Pai didn’t shy away from his belief that the Commission should be working toward the future, stating the FCC’s decisions around the IP transistion will have “dramatic and real world consequences.” He then made plain his preference for a pilot program — put forward to the FCC by AT&T — to upgrade legacy copper networks to all-IP. As John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports:
“The FCC has sought and received comments on a proposal to create an All-IP Pilot Program,” Pai said in a speech to the Hudson Institute. “I’ve reviewed the record carefully. And having done so, I am proposing today that the FCC move forward with this program.”
Pai also noted that in 2011 alone, there were over 317 million wireless connections in the U.S., and at least 47% of all households had “cut the cord” — meaning, dropped traditional landline service in favor of wireless or VoIP. This, he joked, pointed to the IP transition being as “inevitable as another reality series starring a Kardashian.”
In today’s Wall Street Journal, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski goes over the many steps the Commission is taking to free up more spectrum from wireless use. Calling broadband the “engine for economic growth,” he starts out his op-ed by backing up that statement:
To sustain long-term economic health, America needs growth engines, areas of the economy that hold real promise of major expansion. Few sectors have more job-creating innovation potential than broadband, particularly mobile broadband.
Genachowski then highlights how the U.S. now leads the world in 4G LTE deployment (along with the fact that private investment in mobile infrastructure is “more than 50% higher than in Europe”), but warns that in order to keep both deployment and investment happening, more airwaves are critical. As he writes:
Spectrum is finite, and the demand for airwaves being created by data-hungry, Internet-connected devices is on pace to exceed supply. How significant is the spike in demand? Today’s smartphones generate 50 times more mobile traffic than a traditional cellphone. For tablets, it’s 120 times more traffic. As a result, American wireless networks are running at the highest utilization rate of any in the world.
One solution to this problem, Genachowski tells readers of the Journal, is the Commission’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which have the potential to both free up airwaves and deliver much needed revenue to the Federal Government. That’s potentially a win-win, as they say. But as our own Rick Boucher wrote this past February, the key to making the FCC’s initiative successful for consumers and the economy is ensuring spectrum auctions are open to all bidders. Boucher:
History has shown that when the FCC has tried to pick winners and losers in the wireless market, American consumers have lost. Past attempts by the Commission to favor certain bidders and/or impose rigid regulations on auction winners have drastically diminished auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski himself has labeled “America’s looming spectrum crisis.”
The simple truth is America’s wireless industry continues to be fiercely competitive… Allowing the FCC to impose conditions on spectrum auctions will not make the industry more competitive. And the spectrum critically needed by all providers to keep up with increasing demand will not be put to its full use, leading to spectrum shortages, reduced investment and innovation, and higher prices for consumers.
Only through truly competitive, open spectrum auctions will America’s wireless industry continue to thrive. After all, the best way to ensure competition is to encourage everyone to compete.
Genachowski and the entire FCC deserve praise for their tireless work to keep this critically important issue on the front burner. But given mobile broadband’s benefits — not just to consumers and the economy, but to communities, education, and the health care industry — ensuring spectrum incentive auctions are open to all those willing to make the substantial private investment to keep rapid deployment going should be at the top of the list. As Genachowski himself wrote in his op-ed:
Private-sector innovation in mobile broadband has been extraordinary. But maintaining the creative momentum in wireless networks, devices and apps will need an equally innovative wireless policy, or jobs and growth will be left on the table.
This week, the New York Times’ popular “Digital Doctor” feature is focused on how technology is affecting health care. From a piece on apps and iPads penned by Katie Hafner:
The history of medicine is defined by advances born of bioscience. But never before has it been driven to this degree by digital technology.
The proliferation of gadgets, apps and Web-based information has given clinicians — especially young ones like Dr. Rajkomar, who is 28 — a black bag of new tools: new ways to diagnose symptoms and treat patients, to obtain and share information, to think about what it means to be both a doctor and a patient.
The ongoing series, which has also tackled telemedicine, electronic medical records, and even computer-designed teeth — is worth checking out.
Courtesy of John Roach of NBC News come a profile of Catherine Wong, a 17-year-old student who has invented a portable electrocardiogram application that can deliver heart exam results to doctors over wireless networks. Below is video of Wong explaining the tech:
Over at Bloomberg, Ryan Flinn has a nice piece on how a small community in Georgia is experiencing a revolution in health care thanks to broadband:
Until recently, when children in Ware County, Georgia, needed to see a pediatrician or a specialist, getting to the nearest doctor could entail a four- hour drive up Interstate 75 to Atlanta.
Now, there’s another option. As part of a state-wide initiative, the rural county has installed videoconferencing equipment at all 10 of its schools to give its 5,782 students one-on-one access to physicians. Telemedicine sites for adults have also sprung in the area. Instead of taking a full day off from work or school, residents can now regularly see their specialist online.
For more on broadband and health care, see our “10 Benefits of Health IT” infographic.
A new report from the Insight Research Corporation shines a light on just how big telecommunications — or eHealth — will soon be to the health care industry as a whole:
In the US, the $3 trillion ecosystem of hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance providers that make up the healthcare industry will be spending over $100 billion between now and 2017 on telecommunications services and equipment.
Telemedicine continues to present new applications and possibilities for health care — everything from examinations via videoconference to electronic medical records, remote health monitoring, and quick and efficient diagnostic image sharing between health care professionals. Many people have already experienced the incredible ways in which new health technologies have changed the field, and more exciting technologies are on the horizon.
Telemedicine delivers quality health care to more people in more places, particularly to those who could not receive quality health care in the past, and it continues to present new solutions for health care access. But these applications and technologies depend on access to high-speed broadband Internet. In many areas across the country, that isn’t a problem. However, in rural locations, gaining access to reliable and affordable broadband service is often a serious challenge. Without that access, rural health care clinics cannot offer their patients the same cost-effective, cutting-edge quality of care that is available elsewhere.
To address this harmful discrepancy, the FCC-designed Rural Health Care program of the Universal Service Fund was created by Congress. I was integrally involved in the original legislative deliberations that resulted in the “Snowe-Rockefeller” USAC provisions of the Telecommunications Act in 1996. The program was designed to ensure that rural and urban health care providers and clinics pay similar rates for telecommunications services. The intent was (and is) noble, and the expansion of rural health care services is essential. However, the statutory language and resultant implementation has fallen short of its objective. The process of applying for and receiving telecommunications support from this program is hampered by red tape, hindering rural health care providers from gaining access to the tools they need, illustrating the pressing need for FCC reforms.
In order to receive support, rural health care providers must complete and file complicated FCC forms each year. These forms are numerous and are accompanied by confusing and intricate filing requirements; the entire process is considered burdensome. In an ex parte filing to the Wireline Competition Bureau from March 28, 2012, officials from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and the Michigan Center for Rural Health described some of the difficulties of the process and made suggestions to the FCC.
According to the filing, many health care providers must hire outside contractors to complete the required program paperwork every year because they lack the resources to handle the onerous paperwork themselves. In the filing, officials recommended that the FCC switch to a three-year period of eligibility, which would eliminate some of the paperwork burden. Additionally, the rural health care experts critiqued the unwieldy program for its odd and confusing design and for its “unusual” competitive bidding process, which has, for example, delayed implementation of the greater Minnesota telehealth broadband initiative pilot.
When a program that was established to address a problem fails to do so (and actually creates a larger workload), it drives home the need for thoughtful and effective FCC reforms.
Via The Huffington Post, Donna Gordon Blankinship of the Associated Press looks at a growing trend in social media:
Between the kid photos and reminiscences about high school, more and more pleas for help from people with failing kidneys are popping up. Facebook and other social media sites are quickly becoming a go-to place to find a generous person with a kidney to spare, according to the people asking for help and some national organizations that facilitate matches.
The entire article is both heart-warming and worth checking out.
To maximize productivity in the 19th century, artificial light was created to conquer darkness. Today, high-speed Internet connectivity overcomes distance and enables transformative changes in the economy and quality of life for rural areas. In a very real sense broadband is the light bulb of the 21st Century.
After dominating the competition on Jeopardy!, IBM’s supercomputer known as “Watson” has taken a new job. From the Huffington Post:
IBM’s supercomputer system, best known for trouncing the world’s best “Jeopardy!” players on TV, is being tapped by one of the nation’s largest health insurers to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments.
WellPoint Inc., which has 34.2 million members, will integrate Watson’s lightning speed and deep health care database into its existing patient information, helping it choose among treatment options and medicines.
Yesterday, United States Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson attended a White House Rural Economic Forum at the Northwest Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. Here’s his thoughts on the event. — IIA
It was exciting to hear President Obama’s remarks before we headed into our breakout sessions to discuss the importance of increased access to broadband Internet across the country. The President rightly pointed out that rural communities’ ability to benefit from innovation and efficiency is being stifled by the lack of access to high-speed broadband. I think it’s critical for private investment and public partnership to advance these goals to achieve increased access in the areas of our country where it matters most.
Access to reliable and fast mobile broadband is more than just a policy initiative. Here in rural America, we desperately need it — to enable America’s farmers and ranchers to keep up with market conditions, and to quickly and easily communicate with suppliers, customers and food processors. It’s a critical tool for those of us who help feed and clothe Americans and others around the world.
Next-generation mobile broadband in rural America will also come with a number of other benefits, like better healthcare for those who live far from the nearest hospital, online educational opportunities for students, and access to the global marketplace for all kinds of small businesses.
During my breakout session with White House officials, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar covered several of his department’s issue areas that will help enhance rural America, including natural resource management and conservation, and the preservation of public lands. Secretary Salazar echoed the President’s sentiment about the need to increase broadband access in underserved and rural communities, and he stressed the fact that this is an important piece to achieving overall Department of Interior goals. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to personally thank Secretary Salazar for his leadership on these issues, and promise him a continued partnership towards advancing these goals!
Northeast Iowa Community College is a great example of a success story as a result of the deployment of high-speed broadband Internet. Already, NICC has utilized this access to implement distance learning classes and programs so that students in rural America can achieve the same quality of education as those in urban areas. We need a lot more of these stories.
All in all, the White House Rural Economic Forum was a great event, demonstrating our nation’s leaders’ commitment to literally bringing rural America up-to-speed with the rest of the digitally connected nation. I look forward to learning more about what lies ahead for rural America.
— Jess Peterson
For more from Jess Peterson, check out this video he recorded for IIA.
In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, Kweisi Mfume, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as former president and CEO of the NAACP, writes about the promise of combining technology with health care. After running down a list of the benefits of telehealth, Mfume makes a critical point about AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile:
Yet none of these advances will become real or widespread without two things: greater adoption of wireless broadband technology by consumers, and a way to maximize the increasingly constrained wireless spectrum until additional spectrum is made available for wireless use to meet the exponential growth in consumer demand. In both of these areas, the proposed purchase of T-Mobile by AT&T would take us a giant step forward by making possible the far more efficient use of spectrum in large, majority-minority cities such as Baltimore, where spectrum exhaustion could make tele-health applications impractical.
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