March 30, 2012 - 3:15 pm
By Jordan Usdan | Attorney and Policy Advisor

Last week I accompanied the Chairman for a tour, technology demonstration, and dialog on health IT and telemedicine at Children’s National Medical Center here in Washington, DC. 

We at the FCC, through the National Broadband Plan, Rural Health Care Pilots, and other telemedicine initiatives, are engaged in policymaking to improve the quality, efficiency, and availability of health care through communication technology.

I’ve read the news articles, policy briefs and heard from health IT professionals here at the FCC. But, nothing rivals witnessing firsthand how health IT is revolutionizing hospitals and doctors’ offices.

The first stop on the tour was the nurses’ station in the emergency department.  A half dozen LCD panels each listed the name, condition, wait time, heart rate, and status (pending laboratory and radiology studies) of the admitted patients.  This was previously tracked on a whiteboard in a static fashion. Moreover, all of this data is stored for quality analysis in patient records.

Next, we visited the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit where each room had a touchscreen with secure access to the patient’s essential aggregated health information.  We also learned that doctors can remotely monitor the live data feed from medical equipment from their home office or on their smartphone.

We then received a demonstration at Children’s National’s telemedicine center. Children’s National has affiliate offices regionally, nationally, and internationally that allow for telemedicine consultations with Children’s National’s expert doctors. This enables doctors to see more patients and saves travel time for both the patients and doctors.

Children’s National also showed us a live video stream of heart surgery at the hospital. The telemedicine technician in our room was able to remotely control the four cameras in the surgery room while one of the doctors explained the procedure. This live feed is accessible to doctors working from home so they can oversee and monitor patient care.

During the discussion, the doctors highlighted a mobile “app” created by Children’s National affiliated doctors.  The app, Concussion Recognition and Response enables athletic coaches and others to assess the likelihood of a concussion and respond quickly and appropriately. The app helps the user document the details surrounding the injury itself and assesses the athlete's readiness to return to play with a step-by-step guide. This can be especially useful for coaches and trainers of student-athletes to ensure that they are not subject to additional concussion-induced traumas.

A special thank you to Dr. Kurt Newman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s National, for hosting us last week and for leading a model hospital that is markedly improving the quality, efficiency, and availability of health care through communication technology.