A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Politico reporter David Pittman about the important role of broadband infrastructure in expanding telehealth adoption in rural areas. We chatted about the key role that broadband plays in the future of healthcare and I was excited to see in the article he wrote that he had similar conversations with a number of policymakers and organizations in the healthcare space. We all agree: Robust and sustainable broadband infrastructure is necessary for expanding access to healthcare in rural America.
The Politico article, “Health groups get behind 2018 broadband push” starts out by saying, “Health care groups are teaming up with the tech industry in a push to add billions in rural broadband development to an infrastructure package sure to be a priority in Congress next year. Groups like HIMSS, the American Telemedicine Association and the National Rural Health Association want to ensure that the medical benefits of more broadband — telemedicine, remote monitoring and cloud-based EHRs — are not lost on lawmakers preparing the infrastructure package, a Trump administration priority.”
There are so many supportive members of Congress when it comes to expanding broadband access and Mr. Pittman spoke with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, one of the co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, who pointed out, “In states like West Virginia, telehealth services can be seriously limited simply because people don’t have access to reliable broadband, and in many cases, those people are individuals living in rural areas who would benefit most from telehealth services,” and Senator Jon Tester who said, “We can use high-speed internet to get the best of doctors into the smallest of towns.”
NTCA has been looking into telehealth applications for a number of years now – everything from hosting events on our own to working with groups in the healthcare space to learn about their challenges and introduce them to what our members are capable of to assisting our members in launching pilot projects of their own, like the latest Virtual Living Room by PRTC in Kentucky.
Telemedicine in rural America is truly a win-win proposition. Access to advanced services in a local community make it easier to attract high-skilled labor, industry and economic development and quite frankly, increased use of a RLECs network is also a plus on the new business front. NTCA is very passionate about the role that our members play in telemedicine and I think we have only scratched the surface of possibilities.