Last week's two-day FCC telehealth event in Detroit was a testament to the Internet's empowering ability to deliver health care. Start with this eye-opening statistic from the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University: A mobile pediatric crisis team with access to an on-call psychiatrist equipped with telemedicine capacity reduced the emergency visit hospitalization rate from 82% to 20%.
Other sessions focused on digital inclusion, advances in online health care and using the Internet to spur health care entrepreneurship. Doctors presented documentation of an Inpatient Diversion Program that used telemedicine to reduce unnecessary hospitalization and save Michigan's Medicaid program nearly $8 million in one year.
In short, the event offered the latest evidence of the Internet's potential for direct personal health care empowerment.
For federal policymakers, this bears directly on the FCC's misguided effort to begin regulating existing high-speed broadband services instead of promoting better forms of access. That effort has already sparked a noticeable pull-back in investment and deployment of new broadband services, which undercuts telemedicine's growth.
This issue is especially noteworthy since many of society's most vulnerable, including seniors, the physically disabled and those unable to afford their own transportation, have become dependent on telemedicine advances.
For federal policymakers, the common denominator linking Detroit's results and the ability of communities nationwide to adopt similar programs lies in the rapid deployment of broadband service. Few people understand this better than Jamal Simmons, who moderated a session last week on how broadband has become a "social determinant" of health.
For Jamal, tele-healthcare offers the chance for millions of people to finally gain the affordable health care access they need. But the FCC's decision to regulate the Internet slows down our progress to this desired end.
Earlier this year, he explained this issue perfectly when he called on Congress to take action on Internet deployment.
Noting that the FCC's expensive "utility-style regulations... would increase costs on low- and middle-income people," Simmons urged Congress to protect Internet users in a way that doesn't add billions in new taxes and fees on our monthly service bills.
Jamal is right. The Internet is far too important to allow the FCC to tie it down with expensive rules that we have to pay for. No one benefits from that, least of all those who rely on Internet-based solutions in healthcare.
The FCC was wrong to overturn rules begun during the Clinton Administration that have served us well. This week's events in Detroit should give further impetus to Congress to step in and pass a bipartisan solution.