‘Getting everybody connected would be a game changer’
BOSTON – Ajit Pai’s top priority as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is to close the digital divide and increase broadband connections to allow for more telehealth.
“The technology that’s available right now can help everyone,” he said at last week’s Connected Health Conference. “Getting everybody connected and promoting adoption of current tools by both doctors and patients would be a game changer.”
Pai announced at last week’s event that the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program, which helps health care providers afford the connectivity they need to better serve patients, will see its annual funding cap increase from $400 million to $571 million for funding year 2017.
Pai also said the FCC expects to fully fund all single-year funding requests from participating rural health care providers from the Rural Health Care Program in 2018.
“Every rural clinic or hospital seeking to lower its cost of service for this next year is eligible for full funding,” he said.
Additionally, Pai said the FCC is looking to the future as it examines connectivity. He encouraged last week’s audience to provide input on the agency’s Connected Care Pilot Program, which was announced in August. The $100 million program will promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services among low-income families and veterans.
“Our thinking is that patients would benefit from services delivered directly in their homes—such as sensor-based remote monitoring—instead of just brick-and-mortar health care facilities,” Pai said.
Next-generation wireless networks, or 5G, will also be a key to unlocking the promise of connected health and the Internet of Things in the future, Pai said. To that end, the FCC is pursuing the 5G FAST plan, a strategy to spur deployment.
“Promoting connected health doesn’t just mean helping to fill today’s connectivity gaps,” he said. “It also means promoting the technologies of tomorrow.”