Tomorrow’s Healthcare – One Wireless Byte at a Time


Anyone interested in the future of healthcare would have appreciated the advances in mobile technology displayed in San Jose, CA recently.

Thousands of wireless software programmers, network engineers and others gathered for MobileCon 2013, one the country’s largest wireless industry conventions. It was a chance to see how wireless is changing our lives, specifically in regard to mobile healthcare (mHealth).

According to government figures, more than four million African-Americans reported that they suffer from asthma, a rate 20% higher than for non-Hispanic whites. The convention included a noteworthy session on mobile advances in asthma treatment that could help address this health issue. Another session looked at the surging growth of health monitoring products that track your vital signs and, if there’s a problem, immediately route the data to a physician for instant analysis.

These and other health developments have a special resonance within the African-American community. As Pew reported this summer, smartphone adoption is higher among African-Americans than either whites or Hispanics (64% to 53% and 60%, respectively). This high rate of wireless adoption opens the door for all sorts of healthcare and education advancements, helping our community gain access to much needed advanced quality of life options.

For example, diabetes is more prevalent in African Americans than the general U.S. population. Federal figures show that African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. Our community is fortunate that wireless monitoring products have already become helpful and affordable for patients coping with this problem

But all these promising advances in mobile health raise an important point. As President Obama has said many times, to fulfill our wireless potential, America must expand the amount of radio spectrum available for wireless use. Incredibly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not made any spectrum available for consumer mobile use since 2008.

But help may be on the way.

The FCC is planning on expanding wireless spectrum through auctions tentatively planned for late next year. This is a crucial step toward providing the fuel that will drive our mHealth apps in a modern communications network throughout the country. In order for all carriers to be able to obtain the spectrum they need to continue to drive innovation, it’s important for the FCC to ensure that all can bid without restrictions. It’s my hope the FCC will hold spectrum auctions that are fair, open and hold no special privileges for one group, at the expense of others.

The best way to ensure that benefits go to the public quickly is for all wireless carriers to compete on a level playing field.

All eyes are on the FCC. The continued progress of mHealth, particularly the benefits for our community, depends on its rapid, equal action.