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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mobile Health and the FCC

FCC Names New Director of Healthcare Initiatives

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNews

At a time when mobile health initiatives and mobile apps are flooding the market, the Federal Communications Commission has shown enough interest to appoint Matthew Quinn as Director of Healthcare Initiatives.  “In this role, Quinn leads 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. In addition, Quinn advises the FCC on health issues, working closely with the team overhauling the $400 million Rural Health Care program, and coordinating with federal partners including the NIH and the FDA, and with the private health care sector to develop effective FCC programs related to healthcare technology.”

Mr. Quinn will have expanding responsibilities at his new position. FCC is currently working on health initiatives to improve and enhance wireless communications and broadband connectivity nationwide. Projects include the Healthcare Connect Fund to expand telemedicine and revising its experimental licensing program to open more pathways for mobile healthcare app development.

This quiet appointment which occurred in April comes at a time when wireless technology is critical, because both  wifi and cellular systems will be essential for health information technology. It becomes one more step for FCC oversight of it’s authority over the radio-frequency spectrum.

“The incumbent will 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 read.

The job description includes advising the FCC on health issues, providing guidance to the team overhauling the $400 million Rural Health Care program, working with other government bodies like the NIH and the FDA, and working with the private health care sector to develop effective FCC programs.

The job description includes advising the FCC on health issues, providing guidance to the team overhauling the $400 million Rural Health Care program, working with other government bodies like the NIH and the FDA, and working with the private health care sector to develop effective FCC programs.

The West Health Institute’s director of public policy Kerry McDermott was the last person to head up health care initiatives for the FCC.  McDermott previously led the FCC’s healthcare efforts and helped Mo Kaushal and Spencer Hutchins write the healthcare chapter in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. Following the National Broadband Plan’s publication all three of them left the FCC to join the then-named West Wireless Health Institute. In 2011 the American Telemedicine Association published an open letter to the FCC criticizing the agency for going “silent” on healthcare since the publication of its National Broadband Plan in early 2010. In its letter the ATA also noted “the departure of every key professional staff from the Commission involved in healthcare policy.”

Last September the FCC held a public briefing this week with its mHealth Task Force, which formed in June 2012 to gather input from healthcare professionals and technologists to create a report full of “concrete” next steps that the FCC (and other agencies) can take to facilitate the adoption and acceleration of mHealth in the United States. One of the task force’s key suggestions was that the FCC hire a new healthcare director immediately.

My impression is that this is a low level appointment designed to give the appearance of FCC engagement in health.  It seems to be a redundant position one which is less necessary than FDA guidance for mobile health apps.

 

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