Category Archives: Policy

The FCC’ s road to mHealth adoption

mHealth-Photo-300x286

In May 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed an unprecedented ruling that made the United States the first country in the world to dedicate a specific spectrum of bandwidth to medical body area networks (MBANs), paving the way for increased innovation in wireless health devices.

MBAN technology consists of small, disposable sensors that capture real-time clinical information, such as body temperature and respiratory function, and send the data wirelessly to the nurses’ central monitoring station. MBANs free patients from the wires that would normally tether them to the hospital bed and allow clinicians to monitor patients wherever they are. With a dedicated wireless bandwidth spectrum for secure transmission of data from the patient to the clinician, medical device companies now have more flexibility to develop reliable, innovative wireless medical devices.

[Here is a video developed by Philips Healthcare that provides a succinct explanation of MBANs.]

This wasn’t the FCC’s first step in advancing wireless health care, or “mHealth.” In 2010, it released the “National Broadband Plan,” which laid out a strategy to expand the use of health IT solutions in hospital systems. But the MBAN ruling did signify a major push by the FCC towards universal mHealth adoption.

Shortly after the ruling, FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski held a summit with leaders in wireless health technology to discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing the adoption of mHealth in the U.S. The result of this summit was the creation of the mHealth Task Force. This “task force”, which consists of industry, academic and government members, was formed to draft a recommendations report for the FCC and other agencies to accelerate the adoption of mHealth in the United States.

The mHealth Task Force released the final report in September at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). The main goal listed in the report was that “by 2017 mHealth, wireless health and e‐Care solutions will be routinely available as part of best practices for medical care”.

The recommendations outlined in the report were organized under five supporting goals:

  • Goal 1: FCC should continue to play a leadership role in advancing mobile health adoption.
  • Goal 2: Federal agencies should increase collaboration to promote innovation, protect patient safety, and avoid regulatory duplication.
  • Goal 3: The FCC should build on existing programs and link programs when possible to expand broadband access for healthcare.
  • Goal 4: The FCC should continue efforts to increase capacity, reliability, interoperability, and RF safety of mHealth technologies.
  • Goal 5: Industry should support continued investment, innovation, and job creation in the growing mobile health sector.

Out of the 25 recommendations made in the report, Chairman Genachowski stated that the FCC will act on the following:

  • Wireless health test beds: The FCC will propose an order by the end of the year to streamline experimental licensing rules to promote and encourage the creation of wireless health “test beds” to permit easier testing of mHealth technologies.
  • Health care broadband networks: The FCC will propose an order by the end of the year to comprehensively reform and modernize the Rural Health Care Program, to allow networks of hospitals and health care facilities to jointly apply for program funds, to boost broadband capacity, enable electronic health records and improve data collection.
  • 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: The FCC will develop and execute a health care stakeholder outreach plan to promote further collaboration between the FCC and the health care sector.
  • Health Care Director: The FCC 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.

Wondering what progress the FCC has made on these recommendations? So were we, so we took a look. Below are the FCC’s related accomplishments in the past four months:

  • Healthcare Connect Fund:  As proposed, the FCC reformed and modernized the Rural Health Care Program by creating the Healthcare Connect Fund. This new fund provides financial support to eligible health care providers (HCPs) for broadband services used for health care purposes and establishes a new pilot program to test ways of supporting broadband connections for skilled nursing facilities.
  • FCC launched a new health care-dedicated website: The FCC created www.fcc.gov/health, for the first time enabling people to find information on all of the FCC’s health care-related work in one place.
  • Health Care Director job posting: The FCC posted a new position for a Director of Health Care Initiatives. The job description states the role of this person would be to “lead the agency’s efforts in facilitating and promoting communications technologies and services that improve the quality of health care for all citizens and help reduce health care costs; facilitating the availability of medical devices that use spectrum; and ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities have required connectivity.” The posting expired on January 7, 2013 and no Health Care Director has been named as of yet.

The FCC has taken several important steps in implementing the task force’s recommendations, but there’s still a long way to go to reach the task force’s goal of making mHealth technology routinely available as part of  medical best practices in 2017. We believe that mHealth is vital to improving the efficiency and quality of health care and are rooting for widespread mHealth adoption. We’ll be watching the FCC’s progress closely and will continue to keep you updated.

Sources:
www.fcc.gov
www.itif.org

Image source: www.fcc.gov

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Health care’s historic address

Source: www.whitehouse.gov

The nation’s capital put party lines aside on Monday as both sides of the aisle came together for President Obama’s second inauguration. While many will talk about Beyoncé lip synching the national anthem, the First Lady’s new bangs and the A-list inaugural balls, it’s the President’s memorable inaugural address that left the most impact.

In less than 20 minutes, President Obama highlighted health care issues several times. He spoke of a generation of Americans dealing with health care that is too costly and praised a spirit that refuses to give up “fighting the good fight” to bring further light to this concern during his final four years in office. While the nation still grapples with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka “Obamacare”, the President revealed that he will continue to put new health care issues front and center on his agenda.

The address pointed to two specific health care priorities we can expect to see in his second term:

Research in science and technology:  

“We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.”

Entitlement programs, specifically Medicare and Medicaid: 

“We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

It was clear that President Obama believes there is still significant work ahead of us. We will, of course, be discussing many of ACA’s milestones in due time (Here’s a timeline of what is coming regarding the implementation of ACA.) We are keen to see what new policy changes are coming down the pike on entitlement reform and science and technology and we look forward to hearing more details of his plan spelled out at the State of the Union address on February 12th.

So as the pomp and circumstance on this historic day fades, the President appears ready to roll up his sleeves. He summed it up the best with these words:  “For everywhere we look there is work to be done.”

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TogoRun releases version 2.0 of The Freshman Healthbook

Just in time for President Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday, we have released Version 2.0 of The Freshman Healthbook , which includes some of the recently announced committee assignments of the newest members of Congress.  We mined the Senate and House announcements to determine which Freshman received assignments on the committees with the most jurisdiction over healthcare issues.

Below is a list of the most influential committees on health care issues in the House and Senate with their assignment status and the names of the Freshman members. A few committees are still awaiting final assignments and will be updated in the Healthbook when they are made available.

Senate:

  • Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP)
    • Assignment status: Subcommittees still unassigned
    • Freshman members:
      • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
      • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
      • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
  • Senate Committee on Finance
    • Assignment status: Complete
    • No freshman on this committee
  • Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
    • Assignment status: Complete
    • No freshman on this committee
  • Senate Special Committee on Aging
    • Assignment status: Complete
    • Freshman members:
      • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
      • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
      • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
      • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
      • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
      • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

House:

  • House Committee on Energy and Commerce
    • Assignment status: Committee to be assigned on January 22
  • House Committee on Ways and Means
    • Assignment status: Committee still unassigned
  • House  Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
    • Assignment status: Complete
    • No freshman on this committee

Check out The Freshman Healthbook v.2.0 and follow us on @HCPolicyMatters to keep up with the latest.

 

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The congressional version of Greek rush week

Do you remember college “rush week?” Sororities, fraternities and new recruits go through an arduous, anxiety-ridden pledge process. Everyone wants to say the right thing and put his or her best foot forward in hopes of making the best match. Groups plan for months, mulling over every detail from who is going to be the initial greeter, to who is going to work the room. There are countless discussions about themes, decorations and the invitation list. And of course, there is the painstaking post-event conversation in which people share what they learned about the new pledges and begin to hone in on the hottest prospects.

Congress and many state capitals have a tradition that parallels the rush experience – the Freshman Welcome Reception. Large companies or associations host a widely-attended reception to honor the new freshman members and welcome in a new Congress/Legislature — all within the respective congressional gift rules. The purpose is to attract members, key staff and other health care influencers with the objectives of:

  • Putting your issue on their radar: The sooner the new members understand your issue and point of view, the better; before they are overcome with the demands of the legislative calendar, which becomes busier as the year progresses.
  • Establishing you as a go-to source on a certain subject: Policymakers and their staff are notoriously overworked and understaffed. They rely on subject matter internal and external experts to help them get up to speed on pressing issues. When time is tight, they will call the people whom they know and trust.
  • Beginning to build a relationship and teasing out who might have a connection to your issue— a connection that may not be public knowledge: In this less formal setting, you might discover that a new member has personal experience with your issue (i.e. their mother-in-law is showing signs of early Alzheimer’s) or they relate to your cause through a certain lens (i.e. their professional success was due to strong protection for intellectual property rights). These types of personal conversations are invaluable for quickly uncovering who may be new congressional advocates or sympathizers for your cause. At a minimum, they give you insight on how to customize your approach for future conversations.
  • Building brand advocates: Beyond policymakers and their staff, receptions will be attended by other health care third-party influencers with whom you can build relationships and share information. Most of the people who attend these receptions are, by their nature, networked, social and influential — either now or in the future. This reception becomes part of their brand experience and helps with converting them into advocates.

As a communicator, what can you do to help? 

If you are a communicator, ask your government relations team if they plan to host or co-host a reception and if there is an opportunity to help. Unlike the pomp that goes into rush week, these congressional receptions can be predictable and dry, and aren’t always utilized to their full advantage. These receptions are a key opportunity to give a great first impression of your company and  a few minor contributions could make the difference. Just as an example:

  • Help your government relations people make compelling invitations and take-away materials and follow up with a professional interface that pulls through key messages
  • Play a silent video/animation about an issue on a loop near the bar with a QR code that can be scanned and easily shared through social media channels
  • Help them go beyond the excel sheet to develop a web-based system for tracking stakeholders and their relationships

 

The win/win:  The freshman reception is one of the many ways you can maximize opportunities to build strong brand ambassadors out of key influencers while helping them become more effective at their issue advocacy.

Check out our Freshman Healthbook to view the health care-related profiles of the new members of Congress.

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