FCC task force will better intersect technology, health

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Tuesday the launch of a new Connect2Health Task Force, which aims to use the agency's expertise to better intersect broadband connectivity, advanced technology and health.

The task force will consider ways to accelerate health IT adoption by leveraging broadband services.

Michele Ellison, current chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, will serve as chair as the task force, working with FCC Director of Healthcare Initiatives Matt Quinn, among others at the agency.

"The Commission's top priority must be to make networks work for everyone," Wheeler said in the announcement. "Broadband itself is not the goal--it's what broadband enables. We must leverage all available technologies to ensure that advanced healthcare solutions are readily accessible to all Americans, from rural and remote areas to underserved inner cities."

Added Wheeler, "By identifying regulatory barriers and incentives and building stronger partnerships with stakeholders in the areas of telehealth, mobile applications, and telemedicine, we can expedite this vital shift."

Speaking at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., this past December, Mignon Clyburn, then-FCC communications committee chairwoman, said the agency is "laser-focused" on providing more spectrum to mobile networks. According to Clyburn, cell phone service plays a critical role in healthcare for people who are homeless or marginally housed.

"We need to further enhance ability of low income U.S. citizens to stay in touch with a healthcare team--and keep the mHealth promise," Clyburn said.

Nearly a year ago, the FCC made as much as $400 million available to healthcare providers to create and expand telemedicine networks nationwide as part of its Healthcare Connect Fund. At HIMSS14 in Orlando, Fla., however, Quinn called the fund "underutilized."

To learn more:
- read the announcement from the FCC

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