FCC CHAIRMAN ENCOURAGES COLLABORATION TO MEET TASK FORCE GOAL: USE OF mHEALTH SHOULD BE ROUTINE MEDICAL BEST PRACTICE WITHIN 5 YEARS
mHEALTH TASK FORCE RELEASES NEW REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
On September 24, 2012, FCC Chairman Genachowski announced FCC plans to act on recommendations from a new mHealth Task Force report unveiled at an event hosted at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Chairman Genachowski also announced that the FCC would collaborate with its federal partners and the private sector to meet the mHealth Task Force’s goal that mHealth technology be a routine medical best practice within five years. At the event, the mHealth Task Force released its report outlining recommendations to the FCC, other federal agencies, and to industry, to accelerate the adoption of mHealth technologies for improved health outcomes and reduced costs across the health care system.
- The independent mHealth Task Force released its recommendations to the FCC, other federal agencies, and to industry, with the goal of making mHealth a routine medical best practice by 2017.
· Recommendations include actions to increase interagency collaboration and information sharing, expand on existing programs to encourage mHealth adoption, and build on government and industry efforts to increase capacity, reliability, interoperability, and safety of mHealth technologies. The report can be accessed here: http://www.itif.org/events/recommendations-mhealth-task-force.
- Chairman Genachowski announced that the FCC would take the following actions based on the mHealth Task Force report:
· Five year goal: Work with industry and federal partners to reach the mHealth Task Force’s goal that mHealth technology become a routine medical best practice within five years.
· Wireless health test beds: Consider an Order to streamline the FCC’s experimental licensing rules to promote and encourage the creation of wireless health device “test beds” to permit easier testing of mHealth technologies.
· Health care broadband networks: Consider an Order to comprehensively reform and modernize the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, to include rules to permit networks of hospital and health care facilities to jointly apply for RHC Program funds to boost broadband capacity and enable electronic health records.
· Telehealth data: As part of the RHC modernization Order, act to collect richer data on broadband and telehealth applications from RHC Program participants, enabling more targeted support for telemedicine.
· International MBAN spectrum: The FCC’s International Bureau will work with FCC counterparts in other countries to encourage them to make spectrum available for MBANs and to discuss possible spectrum harmonization efforts to allow for medically safe cross-border patient travel and better economies of scale for device makers.
· Outreach plan: Develop and execute a health care stakeholder outreach plan to those who may not be aware of FCC opportunities and procedures.
· Health Care Director: Renew the search for a permanent FCC Health Care Director, to function as the central point of contact to external groups on all health-related issues.
- The mHealth Task Force is an independent effort, bringing together academic, industry, and government leaders to make recommendations to overcome barriers to the adoption of wireless health technologies.
· In June 2012, the FCC held an mHealth Summit convening leaders from the health care technology industry, academia, and government to discuss the opportunities and challenges of mobile and wireless health products.
· An outcome of this event was the creation of the mHealth Task Force, by participants, to research the barriers to rapid deployment of mHealth technology and develop recommendations to government and industry to address those barriers.
· Representatives from Qualcomm, TheCarrot.com, and Partners HealthCare/Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) served as Co-chairs for the effort to research the barriers to rapid deployment of mHealth technology and present an industry-led plan to address those barriers.
· The Task Force included participation from Alfred Mann Foundation, AT&T, CHRISTUS Health, George Washington University School of Medicine, Health Analytic Services, Inc. (The Carrot.com), iMedicalApps, Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), Medtronic, Inc., mHIMSS, Partners HealthCare Systems, Qualcomm Incorporated, Telcare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Verizon Communications, WellDoc Inc., and West Health.
- The FCC is committed to accelerating the adoption of mHealth technologies to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs.
· Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs): In 2012, the FCC released an Order to allocate spectrum for Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs), making the U.S. the first country in the world to make spectrum available for this specific usage. MBANs are networks of wireless sensors, often no bigger than a Band-Aid, which can transmit data on a patient’s vital health indicators to their doctor or hospital.
· Medical Micropower Networks (MMNs): In 2011, the FCC adopted rules to enable a new generation of wireless medical devices that can be used to restore functions to paralyzed limbs. MMNs are ultra-low power wideband networks consisting of transmitters implanted in the body that take the place of damaged nerves, restoring sensation and mobility.
· FCC-FDA Memorandum of Understanding: In 2010, the FCC entered into an unprecedented partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, working together to ensure that communications-related medical innovations can swiftly and safely be brought to market.
· Rural Health Care Reform: The FCC initiated the Rural Health Care (RHC) Pilot program to harness the potential of broadband health care networks to improve the quality and reduce the cost of health care in rural areas, and to inform the redesign of its permanent RHC program. The FCC plans to act by the end of the year on permanent reforms to the program.
THE HEALTH CARE TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION
- Mobile and wireless health technology can increase efficiency and improve care delivery throughout the health care system.
· Improved quality of care: Continuous monitoring gives physicians a more comprehensive view of a patient’s condition. Automatic alerts allow physicians to intervene or modify treatment before a patient’s condition becomes life-threatening.
o Patients who used a mobile phone tracking system received regular, tailored self-care messages and were able to achieve significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a one-year long study.
- Geisinger Medical Center tested a “medical home” initiative among Medicare patients and found an 8 percent drop in hospital admissions and a 4 percent reduction in overall health costs over the first year. The program utilizes text messaging and other technology to increase patients’ adherence to their treatment regimens.
- A recent trial found that mobile technology contributed to increased health among participants. Another recent study found that a diabetes smartphone app, combined with text messaging from a health care provider, significantly improved health indicators for diabetes patients.
· Increased health care cost savings:
- mHealth can reduce the costs of medical care among the elderly by 25%, by reducing the number of face to-face consultations needed, and allowing seniors to live independently and spend more time at home, instead of more expensive hospital stays.
- Accessing health records wirelessly and remotely increases efficiency and avoids duplication, leading to savings of up to 30% in administrative costs.
· mHealth usage is growing: By 2020, “at least 160 million Americans will be monitored and treated remotely for at least one chronic condition” according to Nerac, a Connecticut research firm.
- Increased adoption of mHealth could lead to more cost savings. Only 15 percent of the 560,000 doctors in America used digital technology to order medication for patients, as of 2010. Moving to electronic prescriptions could save $29 billion over the next decade.
- Americans want to integrate technology with their health care: 77 percent said they would like to receive email reminders for doctor’s visits, 75 percent would prefer to schedule a doctor’s visit online, and 74 percent would like to be able to email directly with their doctor.
- Over 11 million Americans use home glucose monitors.
PREPARED REMARKS OF FCC CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI
mHEALTH TASK FORCE EVENT
THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION FOUNDATION
SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
This topic – leveraging all our resources to improve medical care – is one I’ve cared about for a long time. In college I taught CPR, got certified as an EMT, and worked with the Columbia Area Volunteer Ambulance team.
To make a little spending money, I also worked for a private ambulance service in New York City. Now that was something. One of the drivers I worked with loved nothing more than driving the wrong way up one-way avenues in Manhattan.
I decided that law and business might be a wiser career path for me. But I’ve always admired the men and women who made health care a career choice.
Since I became Chairman, the FCC has been working to harness the power of modern communications technologies to improve the quality of health care, lower costs, and save lives.
Over the past four years we’ve seen a steady stream of new examples of the ways wireless technology can transform medicine.
Just this month, researchers at Stanford unveiled a tiny new pacemaker so small it could fit on the head of a pin. Instead of using batteries for power, the pacemaker is charged by a wireless transmitter from outside the body, avoiding the need for battery packs that require surgery to replace.
Earlier this year, those same researchers developed a medical sensor so tiny it could float through a patient’s blood vessels, powered by the patient’s own pulse. Applications of the technology include everything from diagnostic tests to minimally invasive surgeries.
Just last week, the West Health Institute announced that it is licensing technology to wirelessly monitor high-risk pregnancies in remote clinics.
Technologies like this Sense4Baby system could result in healthier babies and mothers, and result in hundreds of millions in cost savings.
And today, products like a “smart” pill box can send wireless automatic reminders to a patient to take her daily medication, and alert her physician or family members if she skips it.
Wireless remote monitoring increases independence, mobility, and comfort for patients within the hospital or at home—and companies are innovating to create smaller, better, more reliable monitors every day.
The FCC has already taken a number of actions to enable our health care system to seize the opportunities of mHealth, which is shorthand for mobile and wireless health technologies
In 2010, we issued our country’s first National Broadband Plan, which identified health care as an area of enormous promise for broadband-enabled innovation. The plan includes a chapter of recommendations on health care, which we have worked to implement.
As recommended by the Broadband Plan, we entered into an unprecedented partnership with the Food and Drug Administration to help ensure that communications-related medical innovations can swiftly and safely be brought to market.
Collaboration with other federal agencies is incredibly important. We have a strong ongoing relationship with HHS and I’ve discussed many times with Secretary Sibelius how to harness the opportunity of broadband in health care and I look forward to continuing those discussions.
Last November, the Commission dedicated spectrum for Medical Micropower Networks, which have the potential – literally – to enable paraplegics to stand and to restore sight to the blind.
And just a few months ago, we adopted new rules to become the first country in the world to allocate spectrum for Medical Body Area Network, or MBAN, devices.
MBANs provide a cost-effective way to monitor patients wirelessly, providing more information to physicians and giving patients mobility and greater independence.
Soon after the MBAN announcement in June, I convened an mHealth Summit with senior executives and leaders from the health care technology industry, academia, and government to discuss the new opportunities and challenges of mobile and wireless health products.
The overarching goals of the summit were improving the quality of care, lowering costs, and saving lives though mHealth technology.
We asked the group for specific ideas on how to remove barriers to harnessing this technology for the greater good—interoperability, reliability, connectivity, privacy, and security, just to name a few.
An outcome of this convening was the creation of a Task Force by the participants to develop recommendations to accelerate the adoption of mHealth technology.
Over the summer of 2012, this independent mHealth Task Force set priorities and conducted extensive industry outreach, while adding members along the way. Throughout this process, the Co-Chairs held numerous meetings, collaborated in an online environment, and met with other experts across the sector.
The result is that today, we take another step forward with the release of the mHealth Task Force’s report.
This report identifies key barriers to broader mHealth adoption and makes recommendations to the FCC, other federal agencies, and industry.
The report also proposes a bold and important national goal, which today I’m challenging public and private sector leaders to work together to achieve: make the use of mHealth technology a routine medical best practice within five years.
Furthermore, I’m proud to announce that the FCC will take the following actions to implement key recommendations in today’s report:
First, the FCC will consider an Order by the end of this year to streamline our experimental licensing rules to promote and encourage the creation of wireless health “test beds” to permit easier testing of mHealth devices.
Second, the FCC will consider an Order by the end of this year to comprehensively reform and modernize the Rural Health Care Program, including to permit networks of hospitals and health care facilities to jointly apply for program funds in order to boost broadband capacity and enable electronic health records. The Order will also advance the Task Force’s recommendation to collect richer data on broadband and telehealth to enable better targeting of program support.
Third, I will direct the International Bureau to work with FCC counterparts in other countries to encourage them to make spectrum available for MBANs and to discuss possible spectrum harmonization to allow for medically safe cross-border patient travel and better economies of scale for device makers. This builds on discussions already begun with regulators in Europe and Mexico on these topics.
Fourth, the FCC will develop and execute a health care stakeholder outreach plan to promote greater collaboration between the FCC and the health care sector on policies at the intersection of communications and health.
And finally, we will recruit a permanent FCC Health Care Director, a position that functions as the central point of contact to external groups on all health-related issues.
In addition to these important steps, I’ve asked my staff to review and present a plan for addressing the report’s other recommendations.
I look forward to working with you to put these proposals into practice, to improve the quality of care while cutting health system costs.
Thanks again to all the members of the Task Force for your outstanding work.