Broadband can be a solution to rural healthcare issues

Efficient Gov recently ran an article by Craig Settles that talks about how to spin broadband as a solution to lower healthcare costs. I love the idea; I think we need to focus on broadband as a solution. Quit looking at the costs to install and start looking at the potential cost savings and earning of being able to access broadband amenities (such as telehealth) everywhere…

Telehealth offers substantial benefits for those receiving healthcare, so a well-done needs analysis could help your local government translate the need for institutional broadband as well as individual access to high speed service.

As community-owned networks go online, “Some find more interest among stakeholders for using broadband for telehealth, and its subset telemedicine, than for economic development,” John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, shared with me. “There can be several reasons, starting with the fact that almost everybody is affected by healthcare,” he said.

In the U.S., the telehealth market is driven by the rising healthcare costs, upcoming regulatory policies, rising prevalence of chronic diseases, shortage of physicians and increasing funding for telehealth. It is estimated 90 percent of all self-insured businesses will have some form of telehealth in the workplace because it has a provable ROI.

People may not know a gigabit from of giraffe, but they will pay for and/or support projects that enables an elderly parent to stay safely in her home, or workers with two or three jobs to get regular healthcare treatments or check ups. They want the benefits a particular technology delivers, and care less about the technology itself.

There is a segment of the population who are not low-income enough to qualify for Medicaid, they don’t earn enough to afford health insurance and their employers don’t provide it,” Eric Bacon, president of AMD Global Telemedicine, said. “So they go to the ER, which is more costly for local government.”

Telemedicine can cover many medical disciplines, including mental health, stroke, dermatology, women’s health and physical rehabilitation. Just about every person — from newborns to seniors — may find that telemedicine influences their lives at some time. Healthcare stakeholders can quantify for municipal broadband planning teams how telehealth makes sense and saves dollars.

This entry was posted in Healthcare by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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