Last week, the Senate Broadband Caucus held an expo on the future of telehealth in the 21st century, including remarks from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). The Senators spoke about the crucial role broadband deployment will play in paving the way for people living in rural areas to access to the tremendous benefits of telehealth. Broadband connectivity is fueling the telehealth technologies that are easing health care expenses, enhancing quality of service and improving medical accessibility for remote communities. Each of the Senators spoke about their visions of telemedicine propelling the last mile expansion of broadband to those who need it most.
Patients and physicians living in remote areas are using telemedicine for a range of health services including video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, and nursing call centers. For example, a veteran can reach her doctor online, discuss her ailments, be given a diagnosis and a prescription, all without having to find transportation to and from a distant VA clinic.
The American Telemedicine Association, has 10,000 members representing 450 organizations, including medical centers, hospitals, clinics, medical technology companies, physicians and government facilities, and more than 71 percent of all facilities and physicians are using telehealth medical services today. The telemedicine industry is rapidly growing, and forecasted to spend $49 billion by the year 2021.
Regulatory frameworks and policies, however, are not advancing as quickly as today’s innovative telehealth technologies. The Senate Broadband Caucus has made rural broadband one of its highest priorities, advocating for innovation-spurring policies and lower regulatory barriers that will advance the telehealth industry and build the networks needed to deliver broadband-enabled health care solutions to Americans, no matter where we live.