FCC: Mobile Broadband and the Future of Health

By Brian Dolan
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The FCC published its 360-page National Broadband Plan today and it includes a 25 page chapter on broadband and healthcare. We pulled out one section that focuses on mobile networks and "the Future of Health" that summarizes much of the activity ongoing in the mobile health industry today.

The FCC points to physicians using smartphones for remote diagnosis; consumers using mobile devices for chronic disease management; the advent of non-invasive sensors and body area networks; mobile medicine and remote monitoring; connected implantable devices; and more.

Here's the excerpt from the FCC's National Broadband Plan that's focused on mobile health:

Mobile Broadband and the Future of Health

Mobile health is a new frontier in health innovation. This field encompasses applications, devices and communications networks that allow clinicians and patients to give and receive care anywhere at any time. Physicians download diagnostic data, lab results, images and drug information to handheld devices like PDAs and Smartphones; emergency medical responders use field laptops to keep track of patient information and records; and patients use health monitoring devices and sensors that accompany them everywhere. Through capabilities like these, mobile health offers convenience critical to improving consumer engagement and clinician responsiveness.

Innovations in mobile medicine include new modalities of non-invasive sensors and body sensor networks.29 Mobile sensors in the form of disposable bandages and ingestible pills relay real-time health data (e.g., vital signs, glucose levels and medication compliance) over wireless connections. Sensors that help older adults live independently at home detect motion, sense mood changes and help prevent falls. Wireless body sensor networks reduce infection risk and increase patient mobility by eliminating cables; they also improve caregiver effectiveness. Each of these solutions is available today, albeit with varying degrees of adoption.

Mobile medicine takes remote monitoring to a new level. For example, today’s mobile cardiovascular solutions allow a patient’s heart rhythm to be monitored continuously regardless of the patient’s whereabouts. Diabetics can receive continuous, flexible insulin delivery through real-time glucose monitoring sensors that transmit data to wearable insulin pumps.

Advances in networked implantable devices enable capabilities that did not seem possible a few years ago. For example, micropower medical network services support wideband medical implant devices designed to restore sensation, mobility and other functions to paralyzed limbs and organs. These solutions offer great promise in improving the quality of life for numerous populations including injured soldiers, stroke victims and those with spinal cord injuries. Human clinical trials of networked implantable devices targeting an array of conditions are expected to begin at the end of 2010.

Mobile and networked health solutions are in their infancy. The applications and capabilities available even two years from now are expected to vary markedly from those available today. Some will be in specialized devices; others will be applications using capabilities already built into widely available mobile phones, such as global positioning systems and accelerometers. Networked implantable devices stand to grow in sophistication and broaden the realm of conditions they can address. These solutions represent a glimpse into the future of personal and public health—an expanded toolkit to achieve better health, quality of life and care delivery.

Visit the FCC's site to read more from the Healthcare chapter in the Broadband Plan (PDF)