FCC Launches Task Force for Mobile Health

The task force will consider ways to accelerate the adoption of health care technologies by leveraging broadband and other communications services.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced the formation of a new commission task force, Connect2HealthFCC, that will bring together the expertise of the FCC on the intersection of broadband, advanced technology and health.

Specifically, the task force will consider ways to accelerate the adoption of health care technologies by leveraging broadband and other next-generation communications services.

Wheeler announced Michele Ellison as chair of the task force, and his intent is to name her deputy general counsel.

To advance this broad initiative, Ellison will work hand in hand with the leadership of the commission, in particular with the FCC's director of Health Care Initiatives and the chiefs of the Wireline and Wireless bureaus and Office of Engineering and Technology.

Ellison will also collaborate with public and private stakeholders in the health care and technology space.

"The Commission's top priority must be to make networks work for everyone. Broadband itself is not the goal—it's what broadband enables. We must leverage all available technologies to ensure that advanced health care solutions are readily accessible to all Americans, from rural and remote areas to underserved inner cities," Wheeler said in a statement. "By identifying regulatory barriers and incentives and building stronger partnerships with stakeholders in the areas of telehealth, mobile applications and telemedicine, we can expedite this vital shift."

Ellison had previously served as chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau since 2009. Under her leadership, the commission enforced the Communications Act and the commission's rules—issuing more than $300 million in proposed penalties and settlements and taking nearly 6,000 enforcement actions.

These actions include the $25 million settlement, the largest in FCC history, on "mystery fees" (unauthorized data charges billed to millions of consumers); the $18.25 million settlement addressing improper billing of the Telecommunications Relay Service fund; and two rural call completion settlements.

"Michele brings a wealth of experience to the effort. She is a gifted lawyer and dedicated public servant who has brought her keen leadership skills to bear as a forceful and effective Chief of the Enforcement Bureau," Wheeler said. "I am pleased that she now will use her formidable talents to address this critical challenge."

The global market for mobile health is expected to reach $49 billion by 2020, according to a study by market research and consulting company Grand View Research.

Mobile operators accounted for 48 percent of the overall market in 2012, with the majority of their revenue originating from monitoring services such as independent aging solutions.