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FCC Seeks Comment on Accelerating Adoption and Availability of Broadband-Enabled Health Technologies, Services, and Solutions
The Connect2Health FCC Task Force

Broadband Health Technology Public Notice

GN Docket No. 16-46

The Connect2HealthFCC Task Force would like to invite you, as well as anyone else who you think may be interested in this subject area (so please feel free to share this email with others), to submit comments in response to the attached Public Notice issued yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission.  The FCC is seeking broad stakeholder input on a wide range of issues concerning broadband and health.  Attached is a copy of the Public Notice, as well as related materials (i.e. an FCC News Release and a Statement from Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn).  Additional information about the Public Notice can also be found at www.fcc.gov/health/public-notice

We would very much appreciate your input, including any relevant data and studies.  Please consider submitting written comments.  Initial comments should be submitted no later than May 24, 2017, and any reply comments no later than June 8, 2017.  Instructions for submitting written comments are provided in the last three pages of the attached Public Notice.  If you have any questions about this matter, please feel free to send an email to the Task Force’s main  e-mail address at connect2health@fcc.gov, and we will get back to you as quickly as we can. 

As you will read, the Public Notice solicits comment, data, and information on a broad range of regulatory, policy, and infrastructure issues related to the Commission’s interest in promoting and accelerating the adoption and accessibility of broadband-enabled health care technologies, solutions, and services, especially in rural and underserved areas of the country.  The record in this docket will be used to better understand the state of broadband and health in the United States so that that FCC can stay ahead of the health technology curve; to identify potential actions that the FCC can take to promote these important goals; to identify opportunities to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in this area; and to inform the Task Force’s ongoing work and recommendations.              

REQUEST FOR COMMENT AND DATA:  The Public Notice requests the most current information and data available that are relevant to the intersection of broadband, advanced technology, and health care.  The questions for comment in the Public Notice, including the information and data requested, are summarized below and relate to the following enumerated objectives:

I.  Promoting effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage broadband adoption and promote health IT.

What policy measures (especially those that the FCC might pursue based on its legal authority) could accelerate the adoption and availability of broadband-enabled health technologies, solutions, and services , especially in rural and underserved areas of the country?  What regulatory or other barriers are impeding these efforts?  What type of connectivity (e.g., wired or wireless; fixed or mobile) is necessary to support the deployment of health IT applications today and in the near future at the different types of health care delivery settings, from hospitals to rural clinics, etc.?  What are the minimum bandwidth and speed requirements for the different types of health IT applications available today and in the near future for clinical and non-clinical settings?  Where are broadband-enabled health technologies, solutions, and services most needed in the country, and what are the circumstances (e.g., infrastructure, regulatory, etc.) impeding their availability and adoption? 

II.  Identifying regulatory barriers (and incentives) to the deployment of RF-enabled advanced health care technologies and devices.

Stakeholders in the health sector and commercial wireless industry have raised concerns about the likely surge in demand for spectrum.  In order to keep with demand, the FCC seeks information and data on the types of broadband-enabled health technologies and medical devices currently in the market and those expected to launch in the near future; the future spectrum and wireless infrastructure needs required to implement these devices; and areas of concern related to increased use and the number of wireless medical devices in health care settings and public settings.

III.  Strengthen the nation’s telehealth infrastructure through the FCC’s Rural Health Care (RHC) Program and other initiatives.

In this section, the FCC seeks to identify broadband-related programs and initiatives that can facilitate the availability and accessibility of broadband-enabled health technologies, solutions, and services – such as telehealth and telemedicine — in rural and underserved areas of the country, given ongoing challenges related to accessing healthcare services in these areas.  One such FCC program is the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, which has made the benefits of broadband-enabled health services, such as telehealth and telemedicine, more available to consumers in rural and remote areas.  Among other things, the Public Notice seeks comment and information on whether the FCC’s RHC Program as a whole, including its regulatory framework and the manner in which it is administered, remains effective and is keeping pace with changes in the delivery of health care, as well as technological developments; and If not, the FCC seeks comment on what changes it might make (based on its authority) to the RHC Program.   

IV.  Raising consumer awareness about the value proposition of broadband in the health care sector and its potential for addressing health care disparities.

Although positive health outcomes can be derived by direct use of broadband-enabled health technologies and services, many consumers remain unaware about their benefits or as options to receiving care.  Access to broadband Internet services alone can enable consumers to self-manage their well-being.  The FCC seeks suggestions on how it can further increase consumer awareness and adoption of broadband health technologies, solutions, and services, especially for underserved populations like older Americans, people with disabilities, and veterans. 

V.  Enabling the development of broadband-enabled health technologies that are designed to be fully accessible to people with disabilities.

A 2013 study estimated that there could be as many as 37 million people with a disability; and there are other studies suggesting that the number could be even higher.  The FCC wants to do what it can, within its statutory authority, to ensure that broadband-enabled health technologies, solutions, and services, as well as cutting-edge medical devices and applications, are available, accessible, and usable by people with disabilities and is, therefore, seeking suggestions on how it can achieve that objective.  Are currently available broadband-enabled technologies and wireless medical devices accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities?  Are there any design issues that are impending their use?  What are hospitals and clinicians doing, if anything, to overcome design limitations of these technologies and devices so that they’re usable for people with disabilities?  

VI.  Highlighting effective telehealth projects, broadband-enabled health technologies, and mHealth applications across the country and abroad—to identify lessons learned, best practices, and regulatory challenges.

Here, the FCC seeks to learn about any efforts that have been pursued—by governments, Tribal Nations, other countries, health systems, etc.—to increase consumer awareness about the benefits of broadband-enabled health technologies, solutions, and services.  And to identify any efforts or initiatives that have been successful in increasing broadband health adoption.  What were the lessons learned from these projects?

VII.  Engaging a diverse array of traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to identify emerging issues and opportunities in the broadband health space.

The FCC wants to be sure that its policies reflect broad stakeholder input and that they do not present obstacles to continued innovation and investment in broadband-enabled health technologies, including medical devices that rely on communications technology.  Among other things, the FCC seeks to learn about emerging opportunities for investors, innovators, and entrepreneurs; and to receive suggestions on what the FCC and its Task Force might undertake to support and promote continued investment and innovation in this area.

The Connect2HealthFCC Task Force

Please visit the FCC’s broadband health hub at http://www.fcc.gov/health.  

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