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Last month the Federal Communications Commission threw its support behind bringing mHealth products, services and applications to market - within the next five years. And while the FDA and others play a significant role in bringing mHealth to life, the FCC ultimately has the biggest responsibility for breathing life into mHealth.
This is most evident based on a 26-page report issued by the FCC, "mHealth Task Force Findings and Recommendations," which outlines five general recommendations and includes more specific directives for delivering mHealth across the country, whether in urban or rural areas.
After a month of speaking with people in the know, I thought Eric Wicklund’s comment on the findings in the report, “the harder part will be overcoming some of the barriers listed in the report and getting many different and disparate groups – ranging from overstressed doctors to territorial federal and state agencies – to buy into the philosophy,” was the most telling.
As someone who has followed the technical and mobile industries, and more recently healthcare, for years, the FCC can demonstrate its strong support for mHeath and rally the troops by quickly moving forward on some of its own policies and procedures that have been lingering for years. Making more spectrum – the airwaves that enable mHealth – available to mobile operators is the first step.
Spectrum (the airspace between a mobile device and a cell site or tower) is the one component of a mobile network that is finite. More towers, fiber or network hardware can be added to handle increased use, but lack of enough spectrum can cause a bottleneck that can restrict the broad implementation of mHealth.
mHealth – mobile health – will require strong commercial mobile networks that ensure consistent and high quality transmission of applications and services between and among mobile devices used by anyone, anywhere and at any time. Several companies offering mHealth services have told me that without offering customers a specific level of quality assurance their products or services will need to wait on the sidelines.
According to the report, "mHealth can improve patient care and create cost savings by capturing information for providers and allowing them to rapidly analyze large amounts of information to better understand a person's health trends over time. mHealth also offers the promise of giving patients easier access to their health information, and it allows the mining of data to improve cost transparency, increasing efficiencies across the continuum of care and enabling more accurate diagnosis and treatment."
All valid points, and they have the full support and agreement of almost everyone in the mobile and healthcare industries. It’s now time to put the plan into action.
Hopefully the FCC will take the bull by the horns, work feverishly to open up the much-needed airspace and work with companies, organizations, government and individuals to beat its goal of fully integrating mHealth into healthcare delivery in five years.
Leroy Jones, Jr. is the creator of Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr., a blog that covers innovative services impacting the healthcare industry from a "real life" perspective. He can be contacted at www.technicaljones.com. (Twitter: @TechnicalJones)
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