(Editor’s note: The Broadband Report is a regular feature in WRAL Tech Wire.)
RALEIGH, N.C. – Broadband continues to revolutionize health care in this country.
Today’s health care environment increasingly depends on electronic connections that assure high-quality care is provided efficiently, effectively, and at an acceptable cost.
Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the formation of a new commission task force called Connect2Health that aims to bring together the expertise of the FCC on the critical intersection of broadband, advanced technology, and health.
Wheeler explained that the commission’s top priority must be to make networks work for everyone as broadband itself is not the goal – it’s what broadband enables.
“We must leverage all available technologies to ensure that advanced health care solutions are readily accessible to all Americans, from rural and remote areas to underserved inner cities,” he said.
Wheeler also identified regulatory barriers and the need for stronger partnerships among the challenges facing a new health task force.
“By identifying regulatory barriers and incentives and building stronger partnerships with stakeholders in the areas of telehealth, mobile applications, and telemedicine, we can expedite this vital shift,” Wheeler added.
The chair of the task force is Michele Ellison, currently chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. Ellison has been tasked to coordinate efforts with existing Director of Health Care Initiatives, Matthew Quinn, who was appointed a year ago.
How this impacts North Carolina remains to be seen.
The North Carolina TeleHealth Network (NCTN) is a dedicated network for public and non-profit health care providers in the state leveraging both the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) and the N.C. Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) infrastructure to provide high-capacity, reliable, cost-efficient, and very high-speed broadband connectivity and other network services.
The NCTN began in 2007 and is coordinated through the Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) and subsidized through the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP). According to NCTN Program Manager Dave Kirby, the NCTN provides the critical broadband infrastructure non-profit health care providers need to properly conduct their business today.
“The new Connect2Health task force’s work is expected to harmonize with NCTN’s mission to support effective and efficient use of broadband among non-profit health care providers in North Carolina,” Kirby said.
The NCTN also works with private broadband service providers including AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and CenturyLink to supply last-mile transport services.