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Nation’s Chief Technology Officer: Telemedicine Key to Healthcare Reform

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I get a lot of electronic newsletters and emails that go right into the virtual trash, but today's Communications Daily (Volume 29, Number 178) had a headline that made me literally jump for joy: "TELEMEDICINE KEY to meeting president's goals on health care reform, federal CTO tells FCC workshop." This refers to an excellent presentation about telehealth given at an FCC meeting yesterday by the President's Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, who is quoted as saying: "We cannot move forward in advancing our nation's healthcare reform goals without the appropriate use of technology in health care and telemedicine is a key component." Citing the government's $150 billion investment in R&D in this country, he goes on to say: "Rest assured healthcare IT will include telemedicine....We are going to apply all levers to drive innovation in this space."


After more than 7 years, hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill, Congressional testimony, vision videos, and more briefing papers about the need for home health and telehealth innovation in America than I want to remember, I have to tell you that I have at times been on the verge of giving up this fight. But not today. Rarely have we had a high-placed government official get the telehealth/personal health vision, let alone speak so clearly and publicly about the need for it. But Aneesh Chopra gets it. He has made it clear that our notion of "healthcare IT" cannot stop at the hospital room door--technology needs to reach out to the community and all the way to the home if we want to transform our healthcare system.


I have seen him speak several times--in D.C. and in Silicon Valley--and he clearly understands that we can use technology to drive new care models for prevention, early detection, disease management, independent living, and appropriate virtual care for people in their own homes. And he gets that the global age wave presents new economic growth opportunities for America in these areas, if we better coordinate our R&D machinery to focus on personal health at home. I would go so far as to say that he offers our best hope of bringing visibility, priority, and action for the personal health technology movement.


I have written many times about the need for innovation as a core part of healthcare reform (see Space Race and Investing in Sustainable Aging and Continuous Innovation), so I won't repeat all of that here. On this day in which the Senate Finance bill is making its rounds (I am feeling positive so far--am on page 91 out of 220), it is inspiring to see some simple, straightforward comments from our nation's CTO about the importance of innovation and technology for healthcare reform. There is no scenario in which we will magically create enough doctors and nurses to meet the demands of the age wave and of covering the uninsured through in-clinic visits for every healthcare need. We can't just focus on payment and insurance reform in these bills; we have to focus on how we deliver care differently no matter who pays for it. Innovation is key to that.


We need to develop new home-based technologies that offload our busy and expensive clinical settings, and help families and patients themselves to be more proactive about their own care. Whether you call it "telemedicine" or "telehealth" or "personal health" or "home health technology," the intent is the same: enable new care models that reach outside of the traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions and distribute healthcare across time and place as computing and communications have done for every other industry. The United States has a history of being an innovation leader, and there is no reason we shouldn't be the leader of telehealth as well. Now if we can get Congress to hear--and act upon--that message from our nation's first Chief Technology Officer, we can turn healthcare reform into a positive, global growth opportunity for the country...while getting our own healthcare house in order...by moving care to the home.

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NOTE:  ERIC DISHMAN'S 'HOME BLOG' PAGE HAS MOVED TO:  blogs.intel.com/healthcare.