FCC Chairman Calls Telehealth the ‘Silver Lining’ of COVID-19 Pandemic

Ajit Pai, FCC Commisioner

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai called telehealth investments and advancements the “silver lining” of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at a May 6 Brookings Institution webinar.

“The future is very bright for telehealth,” Pai said at the event, “and if we can take one silver lining of this dismal time is that we are finally at the point where technology can deliver better outcomes for healthcare patients across this country, and a more effective healthcare system for everybody.”

Pai said that no area has seen greater potential for transformative change than the healthcare industry. Before the pandemic, Pai said that he met with several individuals and groups to learn how virtual healthcare has the capacity to change their lives. Those included a patient who said that virtual mental health services added years to his life, a Native American tribe that said access to virtual care would save lives, and a former Atlanta Hawks player that uses tech to monitor his diabetes.

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“When you talk about high-speed, low-latency connectivity, that can really accelerate the shift in healthcare, from the point of care, such as a bricks and mortar clinic or hospital, to the point of need, such as a patient’s home or wherever the patient happens to be,” Pai explained.

New tech, he continued, has even enabled healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients’ health to transmit data immediately and stop a health problem from becoming a health emergency. Increases in spectrum and broadband initiatives, Pai added, will be a “massive game changer” for telehealth in years to come.

“It’s an all-of-government and all-of-private sector approach. We need to think very creatively and forwardly about how telehealth is going to be delivered in the time to come,” Pai said.

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