Healthcare and a Digital Card in Every Pocket

Healthcare and a Digital Card in every pocket

It is fit that Broadband Illinois – with its focus on Broadband for Better Lives -- begins its regular Broadband Voices Blog with the topic Life and Health.  Healthcare is also National Need #1 in FCC National Broadband Plan issued in 2010.

Going back to February 2009, the enactment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) authorized $26 billion over several years for Broadband extension in urban and rural areas ($7.2 billion) and well over twice that amount for electronic health records for every American.  Illinois was well positioned to be a leading Digital Age state based on 5 years of experience under Gov. Pat Quinn’s Broadband Deployment Council in bringing together broadband supply and demand side leaders to develop practical paths for basic and advanced broadband everywhere in the state.  In 2008 the Illinois General Assembly voted $2 million to the Illinios Rural HealthNet as matching funds for its $21 million Federal Communications Commission grant.  In 2009 the Illinois General Assembly voted $5 million in matching funds to start 15 pilot Electronic Health Record programs championed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.  This progress was based on cooperation among the Broadband Deployment Council (BDC), Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and others brought together in July 2008 at an Illinois House hearing on the Future of Digital Illinois, spearheaded by Representatives Connie Howard, Ruth Munson and Julie Hamos, and featuring testimony on digital government collaboration among 3 Chief Information Officers (CIO’s) for Illinois, for City of Chicago and for Cook County, including Illinois CIO's focus on customer-centric goals for integrating digital government services for each resident or small business by fostering data exchange among public agencies.

See BDC materials including subcommittee reports released at the hearing.

Fast forward two years, and Illinois continues to build on several advanced health communications and regional health network-building, healthcare IT-related training, and developing healthcare, public safety and digital services outreach to consumers to build steady electronic consumer-provider communication for everyday use and in times of emergency.   After all, as hospitals, clinics and health professionals get linked and trained to use (the patient’s) electronic health records, they are preparing for the day when some, and eventually all Americans will have electronic health record “smart cards,” especially for new-born babies coming from hospitals.   This means working with the many Community Anchor Institutions (schools, clinics, physicians and nurses, libraries, human service agencies, community centers, congregations and service organizations) on a annual healthcare calendar of events when residents, especially vulnerable populations and seniors, have needs for contact with health providers.   This includes health services during pregnancy and pediatric visits for kids, as well as school-entry time when up-to-date immunization records are needed.   It also includes fall flu-season shots, and seniors annual electronic filing of prescription drug plan options.

 Much progress has been made by Illinois Rural Health Network once it secured state matching funds (see, including working with several broadband infrastructure projects funded around the state under ARRA in 2010 and building fiber and cell tower connections in many areas.   The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has provided leadership in many areas, and is directed by former State Representative and health IT champion Julie Hamos.   And, the $3 million in Illinois pilot funds in 2009 have brought an important “return on investment” in the form of the awarding of over $18 million in Federal funds for health information networks, such as Illinois Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center, based in DeKalb and coordinating with NIU-based IRHN 

At the June 2, 2011 Broadband Deployment Council meeting at SIU Carbondale (partnered with meeting of ARRA awardees from central and southern Illinois) heard an inspiring presentation by Deborah Seale, longtime head of SIU School of Medicine and telehealth champion, describing new initiatives, including those linked with UIC health parties.  Partnership for a Connected Illinois and Broadband Deployment Council look forward to working closely with them, with a report due by the next BDC meeting in Champaign October 5. 

After all, we’re two years into the five year timetable for an Electronic Health Record for every American, including our Health Info Card (Privacy-protected ATM-like card) which needs to be “interoperable” wherever we go.  We need to start looking at how our Community Anchor Institutions will begin their outreach activities --as part of Broadband adoption and use campaigns – including in local Community Anchor Application Expos.  We also need to encourage certified healthcare IT skills training to help physician and clinic offices and hospitals, and carried out at Community Colleges, Workforce Centers and other professional education institutions for the many, many entry and mid-level high demand jobs now being created or upgraded.

We look forward to hearing about leading edge initiatives, including links between rural and urban Illinois, provider and consumer tools and training, and private sector investments in health and bio technologies, such as advanced communication for remote audio/visual diagnosis, treatment or surgery and sohisticated analysis to help health consumers and providers understand health conditions and make decisions.

 LAYTON E. OLSON is of counsel to the law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd.  He has over 35 years of experience in representation of charitable groups and businesses and consulting firms which work with charities. He also has a general law practice. Layton facilitates legislative and regulatory initiatives in education, health care, transportation, and community technologies in Washington, D.C., Springfield, and Chicago. He is a recognized and published leader in start up and regulation of nonprofit institutions in Illinois. He served as Chair of the Trade and Professional Associations Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association and was a founder of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the CBA. He graduated from Pomona College, University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), and is licensed in Illinois and California. Layton is also a manager with over 15 years of experience as chief executive of nonprofit organizations and project manager with a focus on public-private for urban and community revitalization. He has managed initiatives for the improvement of economically distressed areas of Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana, including in brownfield revitalization and telecommunication infrastructure, and has led resource development for Illinois state wide consortium for digital, literary and technology access.

Tags: ARRA, broadband, Broadband Deployment Council, chicago, deborah seale, governor quinn, healthcare, Illinois Rurah Health Network, SIUC

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