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Progress Update: How the FCC is Expanding Broadband Connectivity for Health Care

by: Maya Uppaluru, Public-Private Initiatives

February 1, 2013

Broadband connectivity is transforming America’s health care system, creating better, faster, and more cost-effective health care across the country. The sector represents almost 18 percent of the nation’s GDP, and increased efficiency has the power to lower costs, create better results for patients, and trigger economic growth.

At the January 31 Open Commission Meeting, Julius Knapp, Chief of  the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology and Linda Oliver from the Wireline Competition Bureau delivered an update on the Commission’s work to support wireless and wireline connectivity for health, including the new Healthcare Connect Fund and the FCC’s ongoing work to expand spectrum access for wireless medical devices.

The FCC also hosted a telemedicine demonstration by the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth (GPT), which focuses on increasing access to health care through innovative use of technology. During the live demo, Dr. Debra Lister from Coffee Regional Medical Center, an FCC Rural Health Care Pilot Program participant, conducted a simulated patient exam – allowing the audience in Washington, D.C. to hear the heartbeat of a patient in rural Bacon County, Georgia. Innovations like these mean that soon, geography won’t have to impede the delivery of quality health services.

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Pictured Above: Les Evans of Georgia Partnership for Telehealth (GPT),shows Chin Yoo from the FCC’s Rural Health Care team, how a specialist in DC could hear a patient’s heartbeat in rural Georgia.

Paula Guy, Dr. Jeffrey Kesler, Les Evans, and Mike Porter from GPT explained how they have seen telemedicine change the lives of physicians and patients alike. Using GPT’s telemedicine technology, students in rural areas can receive a remote checkup at their schools, eliminating the need for their parents to take time off work to drive them long distances to see a physician. Stroke victims can be diagnosed by a remote specialist much faster, allowing for quicker treatment and often making the difference that saves a patient’s life. A distant dermatologist can receive a high-resolution image of a skin lesion and make a remote diagnosis. Communications technology makes all this possible, providing not only better service to patients, but also reduced costs.

The FCC is committed to spurring innovation in the health technology sector, and ensuring that all health care providers have the connectivity they need to take advantage of these technologies, wherever they are located. Working across the agency and with our federal partners, we have already taken action on 85 percent of the mHealth Task Force’s recommendations from September, including today’s order to reform and streamline our experimental licensing program, which will enable wireless medical device test beds.

Please see today’s presentation for a more detailed update on the progress we’ve made.

For more information on the FCC’s health initiatives please visit www.fcc.gov/health.

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