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How the Trump administration’s broadband policies will impact telehealth

A few years ago, broadband analyst Craig Settles[1] had a stroke. While he was in the hospital, his doctor was 45 minutes away, monitoring his progress through the computer.

The connection was possible through broadband and high-speed internet. “As I went forward from the stroke and started understanding more and more about technologies that run over broadband, what I realized is telehealth has a great opportunity to change not just how people are dealing with healthcare in the hospital, but the mental health, rehab and the healthy living aspect,” Settles explained in a February 8 webinar hosted by VSee[2]. Though telehealth was able to assist him, he realized that for individuals in rural areas, that’s not always the case.

Advertisement Settles put it simply: “If you don’t have good broadband, you don’t have good telehealth.” State and federal policies play a role in how strong that broadband is.

One aspect of policy deals with speed. In order for telehealth providers to be able to reach patients in a timely manner, the network speed has to be fast enough. “There are folks within Congress and the White House that are trying to lower the speed rather than raise it,” Settles said. “This has an effect on how you get money that goes out to build broadband networks and the operation of those networks after they’ve been built.”

Although broadband policy can affect an organization’s ability to deliver telemedicine, Settles urged telehealth advocates to take action. There are friends of broadband at the state and national legislative levels. Healthcare leaders should seek out these individuals and talk to them to help ensure broadband policy helps telehealth rather than hurts it.

Telemedicine supporters should also befriend broadband activist organizations that speak out on behalf of consumers. “The telehealth community needs to make it abundantly clear how important broadband is,” Settles said. Additionally, the healthcare world needs to think about bringing competition to the broadband marketplace.

Increased competition means a greater likelihood that a telehealth application won’t be slowed down by larger companies. When asked by VSee CEO Milton Chen, the webinar moderator, what he would whisper in Trump’s ear, Settles mentioned this factor. “We’ve got to bring serious competition to broadband,” he said. “Because when you look at all the problems, it ultimately comes down to there not being competition. [Trump’s] supposed to be the business guy.”

In the Q&A portion of the webinar, Settles also briefly commented on how net neutrality will affect telemedicine. The FCC has taken away the rules that regulate how vendors are treated. Though the impact of the repeal may not be immediate, Settles said telehealth providers’ operation of their apps and access to their customers will be altered.

Photo: Ian Hooton, Getty Images

References

  1. ^ Craig Settles (cjspeaks.com)
  2. ^ February 8 webinar hosted by VSee (pi.vsee.com)

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