New FCC Chair: A Potential Telehealth Champion?

For telemedicine advocates still concerned about their fate under the Trump Administration (and the ACA “repeal and replace”), one new appointee might serve to allay some concerns.

New Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, during a visit to the Cleveland Clinic, spoke of telemedicine’s potential to expand access to quality care, particularly in underserved areas. As first reported by Cleveland.com, Pai paid a visit to the clinic’s mobile stroke center and the remote monitoring program’s offices, where he met with clinicians and observed the diagnostic tools they used. Telemedicine, he noted, “provides direct access to health care providers in a way patients previously couldn’t have had.”

Pai, an attorney who was a Washington-based partner at the firm Jenner & Block before he was appointed an FCC Commissioner in 2012 (Trump named him chairman in January), appears familiar with the needs of health care providers, particularly in rural and other underserved communities. Cleveland.com notes that both of his parents are physicians, and that watching them practice medicine in rural Kansas showed him some of the unique challenges that patients and providers alike face, including hours spent in the car. But “with an Internet connection, you’re able to provide care to a greater number of people in a more sophisticated way than you ever could have before,” Pai told Cleveland.com.

FCC-regulated broadband coverage, of course, plays a key role in the expansion of telemedicine and other connected health technologies, and Pai has previously spoken of his desire to ensure that more people are connected. His FCC bio, in outlining the chairman’s priorities, describes broadband as “critical” but still lacking for many people, and points to “a comprehensive plan to promote broadband deployment to all Americans” that he has rolled out. Pai has also voiced support for the agency’s Connect2HealthFCC initiative, which centers on “the intersection of broadband, advanced technology and health,” per the FCC.

Click here for the article from Cleveland.com on the FCC Commissioner.

Click here for the Pai bio from FCC.

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