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Healthy Broadband Makes Healthy Americans

13 Jul, 2009

Recently, the American Heart Association called for greater access to telemedicine in rural areas. Specifically, the AHA's policy statement called for tools like videoconferencing to be used to allow neurologists to examine stroke patients, who otherwise might not have access to the care they need. The AHA noted that not only do rural areas often not have the specialists that stroke patients need, but that they often receive care from emergency or primary care settings - where chances of the misdiagnosis are much higher.

The Heart Association noted several "barriers" to telemedicine, including liability concerns, insurance and medicare policies and state licensing restrictions. But there's another barrier preventing many rural areas from receiving the telemedicine they need: Internet access.

Many rural and underserved areas simply lack the high-speed connections they need to stream video and audio between a patient and doctor

The AHA elaborates:

...many rural areas (as well as some urban and suburban areas) do not have access to consistent low-latency, high-speed bandwidth sufficient to support reliable, high-quality video transmission and reception over open, standards-compliant networks. The presence of essential infrastructure (telephone lines, wireless broadband) must be assessed for hospitals participating in the exchange of telemedicine data as part of an SSCM implementation. This need for enhanced connectivity to rural regions should be addressed in part by the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program, which offers steep discounts (up to 85%) to collaboratives of rural health facilities that install commercial fiber optic cabling for access to high-speed Internet. There should be improved economies of scale in future service and information delivery in rural areas.

We've talked here before about telemedicine, and how building a better broadband network is a health care win for everyone. Patients get better care, are forced to travel less, and heath care costs can be lowered by preventing health problems and treating them correctly when they do happen.

It's an important reminder that not only do we need to continue expanding the broadband network across all American communities, but we need to be aware of wiring important institutions – like hospitals, schools and libraries – where Internet access is the most crucial.

American Heart Association Backs Telemedicine for Strokes (iHealthBeat)

Systems of Care: A Policy Statement From the American Heart AssociationRecommendations for the Implementation of Telemedicine Within Stroke (AHA)

Benefits of Telemedicine are only possible with high speed Internet (Speed Matters)

Health Care (Speed Matters)

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