On Wednesday, July 10, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) commissioners will meet publicly to vote on a range of items, including a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish a three-year, $100 million pilot program to help healthcare providers cover the cost of broadband service that will enable low-income patients and veterans to have access to telehealth services. Building on a proposal championed by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, this development is an important step towards realizing the potential for cutting-edge digital health technology that reduces costs and drastically improves health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable Americans.

As the leading digital health advocate in DC, the Connected Health Initiative (CHI) supports and encourages the FCC’s broadband deployment efforts in the healthcare context. Our members include some of the most innovative companies across America that are creating digital health tools for patients and providers. These new technologies are necessary to effectively and efficiently address significant health challenges to America’s most underserved populations (particularly in rural areas), including diabetes, opioids, high-risk pregnancies, heart disease, and others. But without broadband access, these tools won’t reach the people who need them the most and, ultimately, save lives.

The Connected Care Pilot Program (Pilot) stands poised to change this by funding new and advanced approaches to healthcare providers supplying connected care services to rural, low-income, and   veteran Americans. In particular, this Pilot would reach over 18 million veterans that need help in addressing unique health challenges. Further, the new data generated by the Pilot will help build more evidence that digital health tools improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

In addition, the proposed Pilot would align the FCC with new policy changes made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to support the use of digital health tools in care for Medicare beneficiaries across several key programs. For more information on those changes, we encourage you to take a look at a detailed presentation the CHI delivered at HIMSS 2019.

With this new NPRM, the FCC takes a significant step closer to enabling new digital health innovations like remote patient monitoring of chronic conditions and ultimately improves access to healthcare across America. CHI will continue our partnership efforts with the FCC to advance this proposal from a NPRM to a finalized policy change. We remain committed to assisting the FCC in bringing the power and utility of the connected health revolution to all Americans.