Over at their “View From the HIll” blog, rural organization the National Grange (which is one of our members) has a good post on mobile broadband, health care, and how more work needs to be done to bring the full power of telemedicine to rural areas:
The possibilities of mHealth are exciting, and the potential that this technology has to improve health and quality of life for rural Americans is vast. But as of now, we just don’t have the necessary ingredients to accomplish these goals. Access to high-speed wireless broadband is still not universal in this country, as rural Americans are well aware. Not only is our nation’s wireless network infrastructure lacking, but spectrum is in high demand. In order to deliver reliable, fast wireless broadband service to people who need it, sufficient spectrum must be made available through any means necessary.
In a report for CNN, Elizabeth Landau looks at the growing market for therapy apps in the mobile space:
In the age when there’s an app for everything, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of smartphone tools out there claiming to help people cope. From informational resources to interactive mental wellness programs, there’s plenty out there to choose from.
And even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, you may benefit from recognizing the triggers of bad moods or creating ways to enhance positive thinking.
The full report — which includes some links to popular apps — is worth checking out.
In an op-ed for The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and State Senator Sharon Weston-Broome (D-La) argue that telemedicine needs to be a top healthcare priority for America:
With the wide spread expansion of broadband technology, telemedicine is becoming an incredibly effective solution that is providing a new alternative to improve our current health care landscape. These innovations not only result in the substantial reduction of health care disparities, but also in a reduction of healthcare costs across the country.
Hundreds of applications have already been developed, and states that have passed telehealth legislation are realizing many of the benefits. For example, if a patient has heart disease, the use of telemedicine can allow cardiologists to monitor their patient’s vital signs remotely through a patient’s mobile device. These advances can save time, money, and allow physicians to closely monitor the health of their patients at a distance. This example is just one of the many uses of telemedicine, and the more states that adopt telehealth legislation, the more patients these applications can serve.
At the FCC’s mHealth Summit on June 6th, Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that “innovation at the intersection of communications technology and health care is essential to the quality of care for all Americans. High-speed Internet, wired and wireless, is helping doctors and scientists do their jobs better and faster. It’s giving consumers access to better information, tools and technologies. It is transforming our health care system.”
There is a tremendous need for telepsychiatry in America. According to a two-year program on pediatric telepsychiatry by the University of Texas Medical Branch, telemedicine in this field could yield significant results. On Tuesday, June 12th, program leader Dr. Alexander Vo will share the why and how behind the two-year demonstration, critical success factors like high-speed Internet at community organizations, and his recommendations for the use of technologies like mobile broadband to make telemedicine effective and widely available.
The webinar’s presenters will include:
• Alexander H. Vo, PhD, Vice President of Electronically Mediated Services at Colorado Access
• Jamal Simmons, political analyst for CNN and CBS News, co-chairman of the IIA
“Telepsychiatry: Broadband’s Impact on Psychiatric Care for Children, Veterans and the Underserved”
What: Webinar hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) and Colorado Access presenting the results of a two-year pilot program on pediatric telepsychiatry by the University of Texas Medical Branch
Why: This webinar will explore the important role that telemedicine and telepsychiatry play in today’s health care system. The discussion will reflect on the outcome of a two-year pilot program on telepsychiatry for children and special communities, such as veterans and the underserved.
According to Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton, the FCC’s May meeting — the first with new Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai — went swimmingly, with all involved agreeing on three things up for vote:
Those were to: 1) Further explore the use of aerial-based communications technologies — floating cell towers, as it were — in times of emergency when terrestrial-based communications is compromised; 2) to approve the allocation of spectrum for medical monitoring technologies and 3) to free up some 800 MHz spectrum for wireless broadband by lifting channel-spacing limits and technical limitations.
To maximize productivity in the 19th century, artificial light was created to conquer darkness. Today, high-speed Internet connectivity overcomes distance and enables transformative changes in the economy and quality of life for rural areas. In a very real sense broadband is the light bulb of the 21st Century.
After dominating the competition on Jeopardy!, IBM’s supercomputer known as “Watson” has taken a new job. From the Huffington Post:
IBM’s supercomputer system, best known for trouncing the world’s best “Jeopardy!” players on TV, is being tapped by one of the nation’s largest health insurers to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments.
WellPoint Inc., which has 34.2 million members, will integrate Watson’s lightning speed and deep health care database into its existing patient information, helping it choose among treatment options and medicines.
CMIO reports on a new study out of Norway that examines telemedicine and its effect on cutting down travel:
The study found the percentage of avoided travel reported in 12 of the studies, using store-and-forward technology, at 43 percent, while 70 percent of patients avoided travel in seven studies using telemedicine, and in a single study with a hybrid technique.
“A major benefit offered by telemedicine is the avoidance of travel, by patients, their [caregivers] and healthcare professionals,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, there is little published information about the extent of avoided travel.”
High-speed Internet puts quality health care, a life-changing benefit, in reach. Particularly for Americans that do not call an urban area home, expanding high-speed mobile broadband will, for example, provide greater emergency access to 911.
In other FCC news, GigaOm reports the agency will propose today a $400 million investment from the Universal Service Fund to provide rural doctors with better access to broadband:
Sources at the FCC say the program will pay for both building out better connections as well the monthly costs paid to a broadband provider. A more limited program that’s been in place for years hasn’t had many takers in part because once the connections were in place, it was still expensive to pay for the access from a rural area to the main Internet backbone.
IIA Broadband Ambassador Carl Taylor recently penned an editorial on the promise of telemedicine for the Birmingham News. Here’s an excerpt:
Telemedicine is quickly burgeoning into one of the most significant and cost-effective services in the health care industry. In addition to monitoring patients with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, telemedicine can be used for a host of other applications, including emergency-room triage, neurology, pediatrics, mental health and geriatrics.
The applications of telemedicine are indeed endless, and the ability of specialists to provide services to those in remote areas via broadband creates a truly wonderful opportunity to revolutionize the quality of health care services to the most isolated communities. Moreover, telemedicine fits neatly into the vision of a fully electronically integrated system of health care as envisioned by the president and the Department Health and Human Services and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The future of health care in Alabama and across the United States is promising, and that promise lies in the continued development of modern broadband Internet infrastructure that will support life-enhancing telemedicine applications.
IIA is pleased to welcome its newest Ambassador: Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, PhD.
Dr. Fuhr is a widely read and well respected expert in a number of areas which combine economics and issues facing society. His specific areas of inquiry include antitrust, health economics, pharmacoeconomics, and telecommunications.
Telemedicine is a major area of interest for those involved in expanding access to and acceptance of broadband. Physicians working out of smaller health facilities have the ability, through broadband, of consulting with specialists working out of major facilities hundreds or thousands of miles away.
As a Professor of Economics at Widener University, Dr. Fuhr brings to the Internet Innovation Alliance an academic rigor which is crucial to every stakeholder in the issues surrounding broadband in America. We welcome his voice and intellect to the IIA as we continue to work with private companies, advocacy organizations, and the federal government to bring broadband into every home and business in the United States.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding a broadband workshop on telemedicine in Washington, D.C. As they work to build a national consensus around a broadband plan, it is important for policymakers to consider the critical benefits of telemedicine, specifically for rural and other underserved communities.
Telemedicine is becoming one of the most significant and cost-effective services in the health care industry. In addition to monitoring patients with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, telemedicine can be used for a host of other applications, including emergency room triage, neurology, pediatrics, mental health, and geriatrics. The applications of telemedicine are endless, and the ability of specialists to provide services to those in remote areas via broadband creates a truly wonderful opportunity to revolutionize the quality of health care services to the most isolated communities.
As Director of the Center for Strategic Health Innovation at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, I have seen rural Americans benefit from remote monitoring applications that assist in the treatment of chronic health disorders. We must broaden access to broadband by dedicating more funds to building broadband infrastructure, overcoming the unwillingness to connect to broadband Internet by providing education to those who do not yet see the value, and bringing down the cost of connecting to broadband. Telemedicine is the future of rural health care because it enables rural communities to access expert care that might otherwise not be available, thus improving quality of life. While there are significant costs in providing this infrastructure, they pale in comparison to the benefits of the resulting long-term health care savings and improvement in quality of care.
Beginning August 1 in Hawaii, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, which provides health care for a third of military service members and their families, will use American Well to put soldiers and their family members face to face with psychologists and psychiatrists over the Web.
The service is part of a program mandated by the Department of Defense to address soldiers’ mental health. Accessing mental health services quickly, conveniently and privately is important for service members, said David J. McIntyre, Jr., chief executive of TriWest.
Telehealth can save money and improve quality of life and quality of care. In Pennsylvania, diabetic patients using a remote home monitoring system averaged hospitalization costs of $87,000, versus $232,000 for members of a control group who received only traditional in-person nurse visits.
Rintels, Jonathan. “An Action Plan for America: Using Technology and Innovation to Address our Nation’s Critical Challenges.” The Benton Foundation. 2008
Dr. Jay Sanders, President Emeritus of the American Telemedicine Association, discusses the impact of broadband on rural hospitals and their ability to access non-local specialists through telemedicine, as well as using telemedicine to improve the quality of care while reducing rehospitaliztion in all communities.
Carl W. Taylor, IIA Ambassador and Director of the Center for Strategic Health Innovation at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, attended a recent telemedicine conference in Las Vegas. Here’s his report:
This is not the blog I intended to post from the American Telemedicine Association meeting in Las Vegas. I was going to blog on the rapid emergence of large corporations into the telehealth arena. To be sure there are still small to mid size company innovations such as InTouchHealths robotics and Vecna’s health kiosk and deployable field ready health stations. But the real buzz this year in the growing presence of companies like Cisco, Bosch and Intel. After 4 decades of being the odd rounding error in the healthcare industry, telehealth may finally be ready to emerge as a valid and commercially viable delivery option. Now my preference will be to remain hopeful that the e-health, HIT, EHR, Health 2.0 , informatics, and telehealth industries will consolidate or at least learn to play nicely together so we dont go from paper silos of fragmented care to digital silos of fragmented care. At the very least the emergence of large companies whose portfolios also include e-health and Health 2.0 strategies should push this consolidation. The ATA conference is also a bit unique in that it grew this year despite a contracting economy and though there were a few no shows due to travel restrictions in state budgets, the lure of stimulus dollars and expanded industry presence made for an outstanding turnout.
Now, let me leave traditional healthcare delivery behind and talk about what I think is an even more timely issue. As I write this we are on the front end of trying to understand the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak. Half of my day job is teaching disaster preparedness and deploying a situational awareness software tool to over 1,000 healthcare users (we give it away so this isnt a pitch). We have worked hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters for several years in the Deep South. For the response to those events our state and federally managed system of human volunteer deployment works well. However, I believe there will be challenges to the movement of human volunteers into areas of any widespread outbreak. Widespread infectious disease outbreaks highlight the need for a broadband communication response system of virtual medical care delivered to the point of need. What will be needed if not in this outbreak, certainly in others, will be the need to provide robust real time one to one, peer to peer and one to many healthcare.
In many parts of this country specialists with critical skills are embedded in large urban medical or university settings. Widespread outbreaks, particularly those with animal vectors are just as likely to be found in rural settings. Consequently connecting the specialists virtually to the patients without the need of either to travel is simply a paramount requirement. There are good examples of networks poised to deliver this kind of virtual care such as the Montana Infectious Disease Network, whose work was presented at the ATA Disaster Special Interest Group program yesterday morning (disclaimer I had a very small role in establishing that network). I recognize building a business plan around low frequency but high severity disasters is difficult, but once established these networks can, and should also be able to support daily healthcare needs as well. Regardless, as we consider the emerging consequences of this event the need to develop regional virtual disaster medical assistance teams with robust communication connectivity becomes apparent.
Telemedicine could improve patient recovery, decrease readmission, and reduce costs by 80% simply by allowing basic medical checks, such as for weight, blood pressure, blood sugar etc., that can be performed regularly at home and then transmitted to the central database.
Fuhr, Joseph P. Jr. Broadband Services: Economic and Environmental Benefits. American Consumer Institute. October 2007.
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