FCC Research on Healthcare IT Infrastructure

Today at HIMSS, the findings of a research study by the FCC was released.  I find it pretty interesting that the FCC is looking at healthcare IT.  The research study did an analysis of the healthcare IT infrastructure and its ability to support the growth of helathcare IT. Here’s a short summary of their findings:

FCC research has found that the current broadband available to physicians is cost prohibitive and can be a barrier to important developments in health IT.

  • Physician offices with less than 5 doctors can have their needs met by currently available commercial offerings, usually at a reasonable cost. Even so, roughly 3,600 small practices lack access to even the basic broadband services they require to achieve Meaningful Use.
  • Practices with more than 5 practitioners face a larger challenge. They need a higher level of broadband, and tens of thousands of offices in this category face prices that differ significantly, often by $45,000 or more per year for the same level of service. The gap is substantially larger for rural providers

These disparities offset meaningful use incentives and can prove to be a barrier to health IT adoption.

The FCC plans for a major expansion in its efforts to bring high-speed broadband service to healthcare providers. The program is authorized to spend up to $400 million per year, making it the largest sustainable fund for healthcare connectivity. Currently the FCC only spends approximately $70M per year of the $400M due to limitations in how it is authorized to spend the funds. Funds can currently be let through:

–   The Rural Healthcare Support Mechanism subsidizes telecommunications expenses of rural non-profit and public healthcare providers that face higher broadband prices than their urban counterparts. Also covers 25% of the internet service fees

–   Rural Healthcare Pilot Program—a one-time program with 63 projects (totaling $417M) to build dedicated healthcare broadband networks

National Broadband Plan Recommendations:

The FCC would like to substantially expand broadband subsidies to healthcare providers where service is unaffordable, including in urban areas. FCC is requesting a change to improve the health IT infrastructure, including:

  • Allowing private institutions to be eligible for funding (not just non profits and public institutions)
  • Supporting deployment of new broadband networks where they are insufficient by creating a permanent infrastructure program
  • Linking FCC funding to outcome metrics such as “Meaningful Use” to ensure support goes to locations that use health IT in support of guidance from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Allowing private institutions to be eligible for funding …. Linking FCC funding to outcome metrics such as “Meaningful Use” ….

    Good lord, even more money might be available besides the HITECH honey jar? I’m wondering how long it will be before we see a vendor slogan along the lines of “Need help getting wired for meaningful use? We can help!”

  • Very informative. I can concur with the numbers that the FCC posted. If you have a practice with 4 locations and the infrastructure is centrally located in one location, you can easily hit $45,000/year. A MPLS network implementation with 3Mbps at the central location will run you approximately $1,000/mo. 1.5Mbps at each of the other locations will run $500-$600/mo. Factor in backup circuits (T1, DSL, etc) at each location and you could easily get to $4,000/mo. In a large practice, with more employees and more locations, you will need more bandwidth and could get to $100,000/year just for the broadband and network connectivity.

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