American Telemedicine Association Criticizes the FCC

August 21, 2012
57 Views

When was the last time a government agency had money to spend and didn’t spend it?  If it happens, it doesn’t happen very often.

When was the last time a government agency had money to spend and didn’t spend it?  If it happens, it doesn’t happen very often.

Sixteen months ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the National Broadband Plan.  But, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) points out that the agency “has not committed enough funds or developed sound performance goals and measures that will help the FCC implement [the plan].”  And, it has been eight months since the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report sharply critical of the FCC’s management of the Rural Health Care Program (RHCP).  The RHCP has been the major mechanism to roll-out grants for improving broadband access in rural areas.

Internet availability is important because with it patients in underserved rural areas can connect with specialists who tend to congregate in medium to large cities. Using the Internet to videoconference with a remote physician is the very basic definition of telemedicine.  So you would think a government agency with millions to spend would be looking to develop the necessary infrastructure to provide better access to quality healthcare.

Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the ATA, has complained about FCC inaction before.  Now he has written another letter to the FCC because a crisis in healthcare is here right now and threatens to get worse.  Congress approved $400 million for the RHCP, but Linkous says, “only about $80 million will be spent this year (outside of a onetime pilot program commitment).”  In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Linkous cites the track record of broken promises and meaningless rhetoric he hears from the FCC.  In other words, don’t say you’re going to do something and then not do it.

At best, the inaction by the FCC is disheartening to rural communities who want and need the access to healthcare that the Internet and telemedicine can provide.  I suspect this is causing real pain to rural residents who must travel to see specialists for themselves or their children.  If for themselves, the adults often have to take time off from work to go to an urban specialist’s office and perhaps find daycare for their children.  If for their children, the parents miss work and the children miss school.

GlobalMed supports the American Telemedicine Association position for the health and benefit of all Americans.  The FCC needs to get its house in order and finish what it started.

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