FCC boosts telemedicine in plan preview

Remote monitoring of patients could save $197B over 25 years, FCC says

The Federal Communications Commission is pushing telemedicine as one of its priorities anticipated in the commission’s upcoming national broadband plan.

The FCC, which is preparing to deliver a national broadband strategy to Congress on March 17, issued a “National Broadband Plan: National Purposes Update” on Feb. 18 that highlights the need for broadband to support telemedicine and offers a preview of other major goals.

Telemedicine is the use of electronic communications to provide health care to patients. Remote monitoring of patient conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, which is a form of telemedicine, could save $197 billion in health care costs over 25 years, the FCC updates states.


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The commission recommended that federal authorities expand reimbursement for telemedicine and other e-health care, conduct pilot projects, deliver a plan to Congress on how to advance telemedicine and health information technology, and clarify regulatory requirements, licensing and credentialing.

To promote telemedicine and other health IT applications, all providers should be ensured access to affordable broadband, the FCC said. That would include transforming rural health care to subsidize both ongoing costs and network deployment.

The FCC also recommended that the federal government work to expand interoperability between clinical, research and administrative health care data and to make sure that patients have access to their own health data. Adoption of electronic health records could save the country $513 billion over 15 years, the FCC said.

The commission also listed among its priorities expanding distance learning, smart energy, government transparency and online accessibility, job creation and using broadband for public safety.

The commission has been working on the national broadband strategy since April 2009. At the same time, the FCC and the Agriculture Department have begun distributing nearly $7 billion in economic stimulus funds for broadband projects in rural and underserved areas.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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