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:
Buggy websites and complex online tools are being used to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments across the United States. The systems are hard to navigate for many people, but they’re particularly inaccessible for older adults.
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Fitbit by Google. The approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by Google. The decision follows an in-depth investigation of the proposed transaction, which combines Google's and Fitbit's complementary activities. Fitbit has a limited market share in Europe in the fast-growing smartwatch segment where many larger competitors are present, such as Apple, Garmin and Samsung.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020, provided more than $2 trillion in economic stimulus to address the pandemic.
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: