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Federal Government Asks for Examples of Digital Health Use During the Pandemic

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 05, 2022

The White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) has issued a Request for Information on how technology and innovation have been used - successfully and unsuccessfully - to address barriers to care and health equity.

The federal government is looking for input on how to use digital health to address community-based health and wellness and health equity.

In a Request for Information posted this week in the Federal Register, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seeks input from “community health stakeholders, technology developers, and other interested parties about how digital health technologies are used, or could be used in the future, to transform community health, individual wellness, and health equity.” Comments are due back to the OSTP by March 5.

The announcement continues a federal effort to evaluate the experiences of healthcare organizations and others in using technology during the pandemic to improve access to care, particularly for regions and communities that have traditionally faced barriers to access. This includes digital health tools such as wearables and mHealth app, telehealth platforms and remote patient monitoring programs that have extended care from the hospital, clinic and doctor’s office to the community health center or even the home.

The agency said it is looking for “information about: successful models of strengthening community health through digital health technologies within the United States and abroad, barriers to uptake, trends from the COVID-19 pandemic, how user experience is measured, need for tools and training, ideas for potential government action, and effects on health equity.”

And it’s casting a wide net. The OSTP is hoping to hear from “community health workers (CHWs) and CHW organizations of all kinds; social workers; maternal health workers; telehealth navigators; peer recovery specialists; healthcare providers (please further specify); faith and community-based organizations; community health centers; State, local, tribal, and territorial governments; academic researchers; technology developers; global partners; health insurance providers; and individuals who have used, or are interested in using, digital health technologies or telehealth services.”

The notice is part of an OSTP initiative called Community Connected Health, which aims to study how technology and innovation can be used to reduce barriers to care at the community level and build on health and wellness initiatives.

The agency has broken down the request into eight topics: Successful US-based models of care, barriers to healthcare access, pandemic-related trends, user experience, tools and training needs, proposed government actions, health equity considerations and international models.

The initiative is one of several government efforts aimed at addressing the impact of technology during the pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is looking for evidence of how digital health has improved healthcare access and reduced costs, with an eye toward expanding coverage for new services and tools in the future. The Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, has been focused on funding projects across the country that rely on expanded broadband connectivity to boost access to care in underserved populations. And Congress is faced with dozens of bills aimed at extending or making permanent emergency provisions enacted during the pandemic to improve access to care and coverage for connected health services.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

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