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AMIA Urges FCC to Consider Access to Broadband a Social Determinant of Health

May 25, 2017
by Heather Landi
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The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is calling on the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) to support broadband-enabled health care delivery by bolstering its efforts to better target those with chronic conditions, and ensure that those populations have access to affordable broadband and broadband-enabled health technologies.

In a letter to the FCC, AMIA made recommendations on ways FCC can collaborate with other federal partners and highlighted potential focus areas for program development supporting broadband-enabled healthcare delivery.

The letter, written by AMIA president and CEO Doug Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., was in response to the FCC’s request for comment on the agency’s current approach to accelerating adoption and accessibility of broadband-enabled health care solutions and advanced technologies.

AMIA wrote that it strongly agrees with the FCC’s assertion that “health care is being transformed by the availability and accessibility of broadband-enabled services and technologies and the development of life-saving wireless medical devices.” And, the organization praised the agency’s deliberate focus on both “health and care to reflect and include the broad range of participants in the emerging broadband health ecosystem.”

“Thus, AMIA believes that access to broadband is, or soon will become, a social determinant of health. Social determinants of health are ‘the structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.’ They include factors such as socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment, employment, and social support networks, as well as, access to health information and care via broadband-enabled technologies.”

Further, AMIA wrote, “We note that fully developed, fully operational national broadband service is necessary to ensure that Americans benefit from the electronic health infrastructure that was initiated with the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health(HITECH)Act, and supported by the 21st Century Cures Act. Hardware and software developments now permit implementation of such capabilities as electronic health records, technology-mediated public health monitoring and response, consumer-mediated health data exchange, and technology-enabled patient-reported outcomes measures. These and other technologies provide for improved outcomes at the individual and population levels and facilitate clinical efficiencies that offer the possibility of less costly and more cost-effective health care. “

AMIA stated that FCC has a critical role in ensuring that this infrastructure is both fully operational and fully implemented in every area of the country, and the agency should seek to do so alongside federal, state and local partners.

Specifically, AMIA recommends that FCC partner with federal and state/local agencies to leverage broadband-enabled health solutions and technologies against the opioid epidemic and align programs that can bolster efforts to better target individuals with chronic conditions and ensure that those patients have access to affordable broadband.

In addition, AMIA recommends that FCC examine other agency sources of administrative data, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to assess broadband-enabled health solutions capacity and needs.

And, AMIA suggested that FCC leverage the work done by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, also known as NSTIC, to ameliorate privacy and security concern in accessing health care-related information via public broadband.

 

 

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