WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 - Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel discussed the increasingly important role of telemedicine at the American Telemedicine Association Policy Summit on Friday.
Rosenworcel described the growing use of telemedicine, with 10 million Americans benefitting from it in the last year. She highlighted its ability to bring specialists to people who need them, and its large impact on rural areas that are located at significant distances from major healthcare.
Implementation of telemedicine has already cut health care costs, she said, by allowing healthcare professionals to monitor patients remotely.
Rosenworcel also discussed FCC actions on telemedicine, including the Healthcare Connect Fund, which provides grant to partially cover the cost of broadband service or networks owned by health care providers in rural areas.
The FCC is also looking at how spectrum can be utilized in the healthcare field. One application that is already being explored is the wireless monitoring of patients, cutting costs and increasing patient mobility.
Rosenworcel also noted FCC efforts to coordinate with other federal agencies whose policies also have an impact on telemedicine. For example, the FCC is currently part of a working group along with the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
“Together, we are producing a report on an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework for health information technology and mobile medical applications,” Rosenworcel said.
The FCC alone is not enough to maximize the potential of telemedicine technology, she said. Laws and regulations relating to insurance, licensing, malpractice and other healthcare issues vary from state to state. Consequently, telemedicine practices across state borders are severely constrained.
“We can seize this mix and make telemedicine an integral part of modern medicine,” Rosenworcel said, referring to the widespread availability of broadband, the use of cloud computing, and new wireless services.
Rural advocacy groups such as the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association praised Rosenworcel for her focus on helping rural areas.
“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the commission and other federal policymakers to bring high-speed connections and accompanying health and economic benefits to all Americans—no matter where they live,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, said in a Tuesday press release.