In recognition of how healthcare can benefit from greater broadband connectivity, the Federal Communications Commission is asking the healthcare and broadband industries how the agency should promote the use of connected healthcare technologies.
The FCC said in its public notice Tuesday that its Connect2Health task force would use any information it gleans to promote broadband use through policy, allow developers to create accessible broadband healthcare technologies, and improve telehealth infrastructure in the U.S.
"We benefit the most when all relevant stakeholders collaborate to bridge health disparities," FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. "By working together, I know we can narrow the digital and opportunities divide."
Broadband-enabled technologies stand to close that care gap. In the notice, the FCC said broadband connectivity adoption is especially crucial given the simultaneous increase in demand for healthcare services and shortage of providers.
"This is especially important for rural and underserved areas where healthcare provider shortages are particularly acute," said Michele Ellison, chair of the Connect2HealthFCC task force, which was established in 2014.
The FCC said it would like to learn more about technologies emerging from the consumer world, such as the internet of things and mobile apps. The agency asked healthcare and broadband groups to weigh in on what effects the internet of things will have on connected healthcare technologies and telehealth. It also wondered how the popularity of healthcare apps will affect what the industry requires from the spectrum.
In the notice, the FCC repeatedly used the phrase "health and care" to emphasize the breadth of people involved in broadband-connected healthcare—providers, public health workers, entrepreneurs, academics and others.
"I encourage stakeholders from every corner of the broadband health ecosystem to engage with us on this proceeding and to share their data and experiences," Ellison said. "We know that in policymaking, as in life, many heads are better than one."
The FCC will accept comments through May 24.