Sally Aman

Making Telehealth Accessible To All

How is high-speed broadband transforming lives? Just check out the news headlines and you’ll find coverage of the latest VR headset, a list of new movies to stream, and even how online platforms are impacting our democracy. These things can be life-changing; but broadband also can be life-saving. How? Broadband is powering remote healthcare services that improve quality of life and the overall health of 60 million Americans living in rural areas.

From wearable bio-sensors to doctor-patient video calls, high-speed broadband has made telemedicine a lifeline. Patients are able to readily communicate with doctors, while doctors can remotely monitor their patient’s progress in real-time.  But for many in the hardest to reach areas in rural America, the digital divide leaves these resources untapped.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai knows that high-speed internet access is the most important component in making digital medicine accessible to all. But it will take combined efforts from America’s broadband providers and the FCC to close the connectivity gap. The Commission is doing their part—a $2 billion plan to spur broadband investment and the removal of regulatory barriers that prevent providers from connecting communities in unserved areas. Broadband providers are working hard too, investing in builds that have increased connectivity by 117 percent over the past 10 years. 

But concern over closing the gap is growing. The American Hospital Association (AHA) has warned that proposed funding cuts to the Rural Health Care Program will harm telehealth and telemedicine programs. The AHA is urging the FCC to fully fund qualified applicants and adjust the funding cap so that rural hospitals can maintain their capabilities while dealing with already-slim operating margins. The FCC is considering doing so.

Seeing a doctor should be easy. Americans outside of our largest cities shouldn’t have to miss work, school, or time with their families to seek quality health care that is easily accessible to urbanites. Telemedicine shows promise of changing the status quo, and USTelecom will be part of the solution that ensures all Americans reap the benefits of broadband connectivity – no matter where we live.