Broadband plan lays groundwork for health IT growth

FCC recommends ways HHS and Congress could facilitate broadband access for health IT

The Federal Communications Commission gave a shot in the arm to federal health information technology in its National Broadband Plan, which the agency released last month.

The plan contains a large section that highlights the importance of broadband for electronic health records, health data exchange and telehealth applications. FCC also made recommendations to the Health and Human Services Department and Congress to facilitate broadband access for health IT.

“What is striking is that the strong advocates for telemedicine in this administration are those involved in technology, economic development and telecommunications policy,” said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of the American Telemedicine Association. “Unfortunately, the health reform leaders have given short shrift to telemedicine. That is why many of the health recommendations are targeted to HHS.”

“Since the government is the largest health care payer in the country, concerted government efforts to mandate more effective use and widespread adoption of health technology could have big impacts,” writes Jessica Palmer at the "Collective Imagination" blog.

FCC advised Congress and HHS to document the value of telehealth technologies and propose reimbursement reforms that would ensure that doctors and health providers get paid for delivering such services.

However, FCC might not have gone far enough. Linkous said he wished it had included specific advice for expanding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for telemedicine.

FCC also recommended improved hospital and provider access to broadband networks and standards for facilitating the exchange of health IT data on those networks.

"In the coming decades, broadband will play an increasingly important role in supporting health care delivery in America," Chuck Parker, executive director of Continua Health Alliance, told Bernie Monegain at Healthcare IT News.

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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