Thursday, February 10, 2011

A New Proposal for Telecommunications Support & Rethinking "Home Telehealth"

In December 2009 ATA provided comments to the Federal Communications Commission regarding a proposed national plan for broadband. The proposed plan called for broadband deployment to focus on rural communities. For healthcare, the thinking was to focus on access to rural health institutions and to the homes of rural residents. However, the use of wire as the primary technology for providing telecommunications access has been surpassed by the use of wireless and almost a quarter of all Americans rely entirely on wireless phones for their telephone service. The tether to "place" has been broken. That is why ATA suggested that “instead of home-based telemedicine, a more appropriate term is remote person-based care or personal telehealth.” We recommended that the broadband plan should be changed to include “a national goal of 100% coverage of broadband wireless services.” In conversations with FCC staff we encouraged the plan to shift from coverage of rural communities to coverage of people, regardless of their location.

So I am encouraged by an announcement today by President Obama of a new national broadband goal of 98% wireless broadband coverage for all Americans. As part of this, the FCC’s issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (available at to restructure its universal service program to provide greater support for wireless broadband.

This shift in thinking also challenges ATA and our members with the use of the term “home telehealth.” Such a phrase implies maintaining equipment only in the home and limiting remote monitoring to wireline services. In fact, the surge in mobile health applications and the use of wireless technology for all types of remote monitoring devices suggests a new paradigm for chronic care services. I would also caution against entirely shifting to the term “mHealth” as that, too, focuses on a technology and not the service.

We need to come up with a new term to better describe the use of telemedicine to support the needs of patients outside of traditional institutions. I am open to suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. excellent points Jon. if i can weigh in, i think nomikers are very important. especially in this information age when we are bombarded by information every second of every day. we filter by whatever means necessary and the title is usually the first.

    so here is stream of consciousness:
    empowered health
    people empowered health
    health to the people (that was a joke)
    untethered health
    tele-leveraged health
    pocket doc

    ok, remember, this is brainstorming, there are no wrong answers, be kind.