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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Closing the connectivity gap with remote healthcare

If you’re like me, you probably forget sometimes what life was like before we had high-speed internet. Though most of us have only had broadband in your homes for 5 years (10 tops), our lives have been totally transformed, allowing us to manage our social activities (Facebook), finances (online banking), watch TV (Hulu), listen to music (iTunes) and even read books (Kindle) online. But while it’s been well documented that disparities in high-speed access have widened the learning “achievement gap” between high and low income students, a similar type of  connectivity gap exists with healthcare access in rural America, and calling it a crisis is no overstatement.

For urban and suburbanites, we take for granted that we almost always have a pool of high-quality doctors and specialists within a few minutes’ drive. Not the case in America’s rural areas, where primary care providers are in very short supply and certain specialists are simply unavailable. Fortunately, the government has plans to help close the gap and bring broadband to rural health care facilities for folks who live in remote areas. This remote healthcare initiative would include diagnostic telehealth services, too.

Under the proposal, the FCC will ensure $400 million to annually pay for 85 percent of infrastructure costs to extend remote healthcare by developing broadband connectivity in rural areas, and 50 percent of the recurring monthly costs for accessing the services. This initiative will help bridge the healthcare divide in so many ways, like enabling patients to email their X-ray images to top radiologists, speak face-to-face with a credentialed psychologist, and address the majority of primary care needs from the privacy of their home.
This is a big step in the right direction, and I’m personally excited for the opportunity interactiveMD has as a remote healthcare platform, putting broadband to work treating patients in rural locations.

~Alex Price, Sr. Manager, PR & Branding
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