FCC Issues Telehealth Report

The FCC https://www.fcc.gov recently released four reports developed by the agency’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC). The reports offer recommendations and best practices to state, local, Tribal, and Territorial officials. The reports discuss multilingual alerts, plans for alert initiation, obtaining disaster resiliency, and the fourth report is on key issues related to telemedicine.

The fourth report https://docs.fee.gov/public/attachments/DOC-360696A5.pdf on telemedicine is titled “In the Matter of State, Local Tribal, and Territorial Regulatory and Other Barriers and Incentives to Telemedicine”.

Key issues discussed include state and local licensing laws or regulations that can prevent telehealth providers from treating patients across state lines, along with information on intrastate restrictions that may inhibit the provision of telemedicine.

The report discusses activities related to the use of telehealth in several states including Wisconsin. The situation in Wisconsin relates to provider shortages and reimbursement constraints which are very serious and greatly affect the state. For instance 55 of 72 Wisconsin counties have a psychiatrist shortage and presently 15% of Wisconsin’s psychiatrists are 65 or older and may retire in a few years.

In Wisconsin 72% of the state’s hospitals and health systems have implemented more technology but as a result, there is the need to expand more workforce resources since originating site regulations developed for new technologies are not always viable and consistent with workforce needs.

Other case studies for states are included in Appendix A. The states are Colorado, Rhode Island (Block Island), Florida, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia. Also, the report mentions telehealth and issues in Puerto Rico, U.S Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

One specific barrier to the use of telehealth relates to the need to integrate telehealth into disaster planning, response, and recovery. Many State, Local, Tribal and Territorial governments and healthcare providers have not yet integrated telemedicine into Disaster Management Plans to be able to do accurate disaster planning, response and recovery.

The report points out, the number of ways to communicate in emergencies such as using wireless cell, integrated Internet cell, smartphones with VOIP, Static VOIP, social media, along with texting. Also, military and FEMA/DHS emergency tactical telecommunications with satellite and radio assets need to be coordinated with the local infrastructure. Importantly, it is essential that broadband is available to support critical facilities in times of disasters.

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