The presence of reliable broadband service holds great promise for rural America. While it touches many facets of life, broadband’s greatest impact may very well be in the area of health care. Consider this statement from the Federal Communications Commission:
“Advances in telemedicine are transforming health care from a service delivered solely through traditional brick and mortar health care facilities to connected care options delivered via a broadband internet access connection directly to the patient’s home or mobile location.”
While reliable access to a broadband network is still out of reach for millions of rural Americans, hundreds of cooperative and independent telecommunications companies across the country are delivering world-class internet service, often over a fiber connection. If you received this magazine in the mail, your local telco is one of those leading-edge providers.
If access to broadband is becoming less of the challenge to telehealth’s widescale availability, what is the greatest challenge? The FCC recently tasked the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee with studying and reporting on telehealth barriers and incentives. The report stated that “people-based” issues offer the most significant challenges to telehealth adoption. While this includes many factors, such as policy and licensing, broadband adoption is a leading concern.
In other words, the technology is there. Now, people need to embrace it. “Increasing support must be given to rural and disadvantaged communities so that digital literacy and adoption does not exacerbate the digital divide,” the IAC report states. Quite simply, the presence of broadband doesn’t mean patients and doctors are ready to put it to use as part of their health care program.
Are you ready? Do you understand the implications of telehealth? What steps can you take toward enjoying its benefits?
Begin by asking your doctor what programs are available. This could include connected medical devices in your home or something as simple as remote monitoring via an app on your smartphone or tablet. Of course, access to telehealth starts with subscribing to broadband service that will support this life-changing technology. And once in place, broadband has the potential to enhance your life in many other ways as well.