Hospitals, clinics and physicians deliver quality care on a daily basis. But they are faced with an aging population, rising health care costs and millions of people with no health care coverage at all. Broadband can not only help cut costs, it can improve access to our nation’s world-class health care resources despite the challenges of distance and disparity in resources.
Broadband Benefits Health Care
Broadband can enable real-time transmission and interpretation of large files such as MRI, ultrasound and X-rays,even remotely. Health monitoring for chronic conditions becomes more rigorous – enabling notifications from devices that provide consistent real-time data while being worn by the patient. As distance becomes less of a barrier to quality care, our nation’s Baby Boomers can “age in place,” reducing costs and trauma associated with moving to assisted living or nursing facilities. Broadband can help physicians and other medical personnel deliver high-quality care when seconds count, such as during long ambulance rides following a stroke or heart attack. Ideally, use of these technologies will even reduce the number of patients who require transport to a larger hospital by allowing their local provider to access critical information and make informed decisions.
What is Needed to Bring Broadband to Health Care?
In addition to broadband however, health care providers also need to look at several other factors. Do first-responders have the right technological tools to leverage broadband? Do existing processes and procedures permit use of broadband and are existing personnel trained to use such technologies? The Utah Broadband Project can provide education, awareness, and facilitate broadband opportunities for health care. But we also need to understand how health care providers want to use broadband, and the barriers and challenges you face to integrate it into your services.
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) National Broadband Plan
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan includes a set of ambitious goals and aspirations for broadband and our health care system. And, it is just the starting point for conversations that will be held in this state and across the nation about the best way to deliver and use broadband. The Plan’s recommendations include:
- Ensure all health care providers have access to affordable broadband, by revamping the Rural Health Care Program. For rural clinics and small physician offices, mass market broadband infrastructure is often priced beyond their means or altogether insufficient to support their health IT needs. The National Broadband Plan recommends substantial changes to the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program to better use authorized funding of $100 million annually to help meet these challenges. Among other changes, the recommendations will help health care providers purchase broadband services and expand the program to more institutions.
- Upgrade Indian Health Services’ broadband network to meet their health IT needs. The Plan’s analysis uncovered a great need to improve Indian Health Services broadband infrastructure. It recommends spending $29 million annually to upgrade their network of providers.
- Create economic incentives for broader health IT adoption and innovation. Improving broadband connectivity is necessary but does not close the health IT gap on its own. Providers need reimbursement for health IT and other economic incentives. The Plan applauds investments that Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are making to incentivize the adoption of electronic health records, and supports a similar approach for e-care technologies.
- Unlock the power of health care data and advanced analytics, while protecting privacy. Electronic health records will provide a treasure trove of useful data, which could transform medicine if fully unlocked and if patient privacy is fully protected. The Plan supports the next generation of interoperability and data access, suggesting ongoing actions by the federal government to enable this space.
- Modernize rules to increase access to e-care. Rules created in the 20th century are inhibiting some of the most effective practices of 21st century health care. The Plan recommends bolstering adoption of e-care technologies by revising licensing, privileging, and credentialing standards – which currently slow down physicians from practicing medicine remotely and across state lines.