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mHealth Task Force: Five Recommendations to Accelerate Wireless Health Technology Adoption

25 sept. 2012

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Access to medical services, availability of state-of-the-art medical products, and capacity of wireless telecommunications networks are critical to the success of a 21st century health care system.  Because wireless mobility will continue to play a central role in the enhanced and cost-effective delivery of health care, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski asked a group of health care industry experts, academics and senior executives from the health and technology industries to examine the challenges faced by wireless health technology and develop recommendations to accelerate the adoption of mHealth solutions.

On September 24, 2012, the mHealth Task Force released a report that makes a series of recommendations for industry and government action to harness the potential of mobile devices with the goal of improving health outcomes and lowering costs.  This is a critical issue because by 2020, 160 million Americans will depend on wireless technology to be treated and monitored for at least one chronic condition, according to a study by John Hopkins University.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) hosted a panel discussion to mark the release of the mHealth Task Force report.  The mHealth Task Force report sets five specific goals and recommendations for the FCC, other federal agencies and industry to help leverage communication technologies to improve health care quality, access and adoption.

The recommendations in the report are designed to achieve the overarching goal that “by 2017 mHealth, wireless health and e-Care solutions will be routinely available as part of best practices for medical care with appropriate reimbursement incentives.”

The report recommendations are: 

Goal 1: The FCC should continue to play a leadership role in advancing mobile health adoption.

Goal 2:  Federal agencies should increase collaboration to promote innovation, protect patient safety and avoid regulatory duplication.

Goal 3:  The FCC should build on existing programs and link programs when possible in order to expand broadband access for health care.

Goal 4: The FCC should continue efforts to increase capacity, reliability, interoperability and RF safety of mHealth technologies.

Goal 5:  Industry should support continued investment, innovation, and job creation in the growing mobile health sector.

The Task Force considered several existing barriers to mobile health technology adoption, including lack of access to fixed and mobile broadband coverage for providers and patients, particularly in rural areas.  Although not examined from a communications perspective, the report also notes how outdated reimbursement regulations and policies continue to inhibit the proliferation of mobile health technologies.  However, a real opportunity for inter-agency collaboration exists where federal partners can leverage current programs and share key data to create modern solutions. 

Qualcomm appreciates the central role the FCC plays in enabling new health care technologies that rely on wireless communications and broadband connectivity.  For mobile health care to be successful, there is no question that the nation will need more mobile broadband spectrum to ensure that our wireless networks are robust and reliable.  We also need to update policies and regulations to ensure that they incentivize doctors and patients to take advantage of the full range of innovations made available by wireless technology. 

That’s why the leadership of federal agencies like the FCC under Chairman Genachowski and open collaboration with all stakeholders will play a key role in building a solid foundation for mHealth to flourish in the 21st century.

Robert Jarrin

Sr. Director, Government Affairs

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A new kind of spectrum for new opportunities

Last year, the FCC opened up 150 MHz of spectrum in the U.S. around 3.5 GHz that it named Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), not to be confused with the old CB radio. Hidden under that name is a novel approach of making more spectrum available when and where it can be used. As spectrum is the life blood of wireless communication, the FCC’s move has the potential to create new wireless opportunities, which for consumers means new and better services.

So what is the new approach in CBRS? First, it enables others to use the spectrum while it is still being used by existing incumbents, such as the military or satellite communication, see Figure 1. This in itself is not new. As a matter of fact, we helped to introduce this concept back in 2013 with Licensed Shared Access (LSA), where a license holder exclusively shares the spectrum with the incumbent. This is a powerful concept that unlocks more spectrum for wireless communication.

In addition to sharing with incumbents — CBRS adds a ‘third-tier’ of general usage. In this third-tier, anyone can use the spectrum when it is not used by the higher tiers (the incumbents or users that paid for a license), see Figure 2. Of course, if there are multiple third-tier users in the same area then they will share the available spectrum with each other in a fair manner. The complexity of managing three tiers will require some additional control. To this effect, the FCC has defined a Spectrum Access System (SAS) — a type of database, in effect — and the Wireless Innovation Forum is helping to specify the details to ensure that it all works in accordance with the FCC rules.

So what exciting things will this new kind of spectrum enable? Let’s look at some examples. First it can be used by existing mobile operators to offer Gigabit LTE speeds in more places by making more spectrum available. One can also use this spectrum for small-cell deployments to extend coverage and add capacity indoors. Another example is what we call neutral host, which is a LTE deployment that can be used by subscribers irrespective of their service provider. Such a solution makes sense in places where it is not feasible for each operator to deploy its own radio systems independently; for example, in public venues such as sports stadiums, or in places where it is not cost effective to do so, like indoor coverage in malls or hotels. This approach benefits the venue owner, the mobile operator and the end users. The three-tier approach also enables new entities to offer services by creating their own so-called private LTE networks without owning any spectrum. Such private LTE networks can be used for industrial IoT or enterprise use in general. But let’s not stop there. By enabling anyone to create a LTE-based network, the sky is the limit, literally.

We are not alone at being excited about this new spectrum. Together with five partners we started the CBRS Alliance, which was announced this week, and are working toward field trials later this year. The CBRS Alliance will focus on supporting the commercialization of LTE-based solutions in the CBRS band and is encouraging companies that want to help accomplish this goal to join — for more info see their webpage. From our end, we are getting ready for CBRS by making multiple LTE-based solutions available: LTE-TDD, Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and MulteFire. Each of these offers different benefits and can co-exist together in the CBRS spectrum. As with CBRS, all good things come in threes!

29 août 2016