Health Information Technology
What happens when a prime time TV show becomes a potential healthcare policy direction, plus a side helping of broadband adoption strategy? An episode of the NBC TV medical melodrama New Amsterdam inspired a five-city telehealth pilot project involving barbershops and hair salons. The show’s medical director had a brilliant idea to enlist barbershops in African-American neighborhoods to screen customers for hypertension (high blood pressure), which leads to an overwhelming majority of the 140,000 stroke-related deaths a year.
Bridging the digital divide can help address our nation’s persistent health disparities. Rural Americans not only face limited access to health-care facilities, but “suffer from higher rates of obesity, mental health issues, diabetes, cancer, and opioid addiction.” But the tie that also binds is the lack of high-speed broadband connectivity in low-income communities, too. Rural America, as you know, is facing a physician shortage and low-income and rural populations are less likely to have choice when it comes to broadband providers.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
The Federal Communications Commission approved six funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Health care providers in some of the hardest hit areas like New York will use this $3.23 million in funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the recently-enacted CARES Act, Congress appropriated $200 million for the FCC to support health care providers’ use of telehealth services during this national emergency.
The industry's pre-coronavirus agenda isn't vanishing — but its priorities have already been reshuffled. These agenda items have jumped to the top of the list: 1) Transforming healthcare, 2) Distance learning and the digital divide, 3) Network bandwidth and resilience, and 4) Misinformation and media polarization.
The current global response to COVID-19 would not have been possible without telecommunications. But we need more innovation in telecommunications to build the medical infrastructure we need to deal with pandemics. society will need tools to better prepare for future pandemics that can arrive more frequently and be even more deadly than COVID-19. Possible ideas include:
President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) into law late last month. With a $2.2 trillion dollar price tag, the law has gotten a lot of attention for its direct payments to U.S. taxpayers and assistance to companies.
In order to provide further support to healthcare providers, the Federal Communications Commission should, in addition to adopting final rules for the proposed Connected Care Pilot Program, consider the following actions during the emergency:
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, doctors around the country are turning to telemedicine as a safety precaution to contain the spread of the virus. Virtual visits also enable healthcare facilities to more efficiently handle issues not related to the virus. The Federal Communications Commission's Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) is critical for enabling internet connectivity for rural healthcare facilities that may otherwise not be able to afford it by subsidizing a discount for broadband services.