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Paying For Rural Telehealth

by Eric Wicklund

mHealth Intelligence

Article excerpt

Broadband: The Missing Link to Rural Telehealth Success

In rural locations from Minnesota to Maine to Alaska, broadband issues are hindering efforts to expand telemedicine to those who need it most. An estimated 7 percent of the nation’s healthcare providers serving rural areas lack broadband access, and those who do can pay as much as three times what urban health systems pay.

Our take

Digital Inequities Hinder Telehealth Services

Telehealth is proving to offer significant benefits for the delivery of healthcare services including behavioral health services which are in steep demand, but face short supply of providers. The promise of the cloud in healthcare is great, but can only be widely realized if barriers—like reliable access to broadband, even in remote areas—can be addressed. What strides are being made to remedy the lack of access in many rural communities?

The digital divide between patients in urban and rural areas is big and leads to inequities in the ability to access care. A coalition of healthcare providers has come together, along with HIMSS and the PCHA, to petition the FCC to address this issue. In May, the FCC announced changes to increase broadband access for schools, libraries and health organizations in rural areas. Rural states like Minnesota, which is highlighted in this piece, though, need additional resources to ensure the equitable delivery of care through digital channels. The ability to leverage technology to transform healthcare depends upon it.