Why You Need Lightning-Fast Broadband for Telehealth

 This month I announced a five-city telehealth pilot project to combat high blood pressure in urban and rural communities. One of the things I’ll assessed is the role of broadband in telehealth.

Why the need for fast broadband for telehealth. “All I need is a smartphone and a cellular hook up, right?” “I’m only sending a few kilobytes of data.” “Why do you need a GoFundMe campaign to study telehealth?”

Why? Perception does not match reality. Telehealth represents a sea-change in healthcare. A lot of that change necessitates fast broadband.

Telehealth is much more than video consults

Two definitions vital to understanding the need for speed – “telehealth” and “continuum of care.”

Telehealth use intranet or Internet networks to do a lot: diagnose, administer, initiate, assist, monitor, intervene, and/or report a medical procedure in effort to prevent, cure or manage a medical condition. A serious injury, condition, or illness might require all of the above.

NOTE: Even the simplest telehealth apps requires Internet access! With 35% of rural America and varying percentages (30% – 50% +) of low-income urban areas not having broadband, telehealth ain’t an option there.

In its simplest continuum of care form – I get a cold so I get rest, take cold medication, I might see my doctor online, I’m cured. Yay!

Anything more serious can involve a multi-pronged continuum of care, and provides a comprehensive integration of multiple healthcare providers spanning all levels and intensity of care. It allows physicians to have choices and solutions they didn’t have before. A continuum of care reduce healthcare costs, improves outcomes, and increases patient satisfaction.

Each layer in the continuum of care requires broadband. Some layers may be deliverable by wireless, other layers of it will require the full-on gigabit power.

In addition to the public good that telehealth brings, there are potential revenue streams that the broadband owner can generate, starting with inducements to residents and businesses to subscribe to the network. Telehealth can the great cement that seals customer loyalty.

Telehealth, and health care in general, can be the great hook when searching for investors, grants, and loans. Foundations understand the drawing power of improved health care, especially in unserved and underserved communities.

A telehealth hub can strengthen and expand the continuum of care. Besides hospitals and clinics, what medical care, telehealth, prenatal care, mental health, or preventative care entities exists in your community? How can you use the power of broadband to unleash the potential of these resources, even if a resource is in another town or county?

This is the beginning not the end step

Barbershops collecting customers’ BP is not the end in itself. It is not the only application but one step in a continuum of care, often an introductory step. A lot of Black folks don’t go to the doctor often enough, in large part because of a leeriness of Healthcare in general because of decades long incidents of abuse and deceit. The BP reading in a barbershop may be the first time they’ve had a test.

Consider these pilot projects an an introduction into the continuum. The telehealth app made direct customers to wellness information or healthy living tips. If the barbershop is connected to a telehealth system, that person may be directed to the ER specifically with all of his info going with him to the ER.

One of the barber I interviewed told me some of his customers have no other connection to the internet except for the Wi-Fi in their shop. So turning the barbershop into a hub with distributed internet enables people to have telehealth in their home.

Bottom line, what will be examined in these pilot project is, what comes next after the BP screening program is tested? The GoFundMe campaign is about financing industry education. That data and anecdotes will be in my book.

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  • Who’s Craig Settles?

    Industry analyst, expert broadband business strategist, runs on-site workshops to help clients create effective broadband plans.

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