The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has released two white papers proposing policy recommendations for the use of technology in better preparing for pandemics and mitigating health inequities for Americans. Both efforts were led by technology companies, health systems, medical device manufacturers, insurance providers, public policy organizations and medical societies.
“The pandemic demonstrated the undeniable value of innovation and tech in the face of a health crisis,” says Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “Many digital health tools that have proven effective in response to the pandemic are still not accessible to many. American lawmakers have an unprecedented opportunity to learn from this crisis and ensure we’re providing every American access to quality care in the digital age.”
The first white paper from CTA’s Public Health Tech Initiative (PHTI) was developed in response to the spread of COVID-19, with the goal of providing recommendations to better prepare the U.S. for health crises. The recommendations – created by a diverse group of digital health companies and health systems convened by CTA – demonstrate how technology can be used to better respond to public health emergencies.
The initiative’s members include the American College of Cardiology, AHIP, Brookings, Included Health, Microsoft, Northwell Health, Philips, SSM Health, the Health Innovation Alliance and more. The effort is co-chaired by Dr. David Rhew, global chief medical officer, Microsoft, and a member of CTA’s Health Division Board; and Dr. Alexander Garza, chief community health officer, SSM Health, and former Task Force Commander for the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.
Key policy recommendations from the initiative include:
- Federal and state governments should expand broadband coverage to ensure it reaches rural and underserved areas.
- Congress should make select Medicare telehealth COVID-19 Public Health Emergency waivers and flexibilities permanent.
- Congress should pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation specifically covering stakeholders not covered by other privacy laws and regulations regimes (e.g., HIPAA).
- The federal government should partner with industry stakeholders to develop evidence-based guidelines and industry standards for digital health.
- The federal government should establish a national early warning system based on aggregated data from digital tools capable of identifying disease hotspots.
The second white paper outlines policy recommendations from the Health Equity and Access Leadership (HEAL) Coalition, a group comprising nearly 35 organizations spanning the entire health ecosystem led by CTA and the Connected Health Initiative. The coalition’s recommendations recognize the opportunity to apply greater use and adoption of trustworthy digital health tools to improve the digital health disparities that were highlighted by the pandemic.
Members of the coalition include representatives from Best Buy Health, HP, Omron Healthcare and more. The coalition is chaired by Dr. Lucienne Ide, founder and CEO of Rimidi, and Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO of Grapevine Health.
Key policy recommendations from the coalition include:
- State and local governments should consider requiring hospitals and health systems to routinely assess a patient’s ability to access digital services and their digital literacy.
- Federal, state, and local governments should develop a network of digital hubs that can train, educate, and support patients and healthcare providers in using various digital health solutions.
- Public and private insurers must prioritize the use of digital health tools to track and manage conditions and treat patients.
“We’re convening experts and organizations from the frontlines of the pandemic to find solutions to our most pressing digital health challenges,” says Rene Quashie, vice president, digital health, CTA.
“Despite our extensive disaster preparedness planning, the pandemic shined a light on inequity and weaknesses in our health care system that we can no longer afford to ignore. The immediate threats posed to our communities by COVID-19 variants underscore the need for lawmakers to act now.”