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Connecting America’s Stories: The Future of Health Care

June 25th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

High-speed broadband can help doctors and hospitals deliver state-of-the-art care, particularly to the underserved communities most in need.

Last week, the FCC announced a joint meeting with the FDA to discuss how to implement the Broadband Plan’s recommendation to get innovative wireless medical devices to consumers as quickly and safely as possible.

As exciting as this is, it is just a hint at the possibilities that broadband innovation holds for health care in America.  For example, telemedicine is a promising field that can help rural communities stay safe and healthy.

Neil in Abilene, Texas

Citizens of rural Texas communities have very little, if any, access to professional medical care. Telemedicine brings critically needed medical care to rural communities; however, without broadband services Telemedicine is physically impossible.

Medical providers are willing to see patients over a Telemedicine system, the technology exists to make Telemedicine a reality, and patients are willing to see providers via Telemedicine. Until a broadband system is in place to provide the needed bandwidth Telemedicine will never reach the citizens that truly need the services. Rural Texas needs the bandwidth to make Telemedicine a reality for these small communities that otherwise may not have a hospital, doctor, clinic, or other healthcare provider.

Access to health care and information is an issue for many providers as well.  Without broadband, health care professionals can be stifled in their work and professional development.

Betsy in Morgantown, West Virginia

As a faculty member in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and also as President, West Virginia Pharmacists Association, I applaud the government for recognizing the vital role that establishing targeted nationwide, Broadband access has in health care.

Studies have shown consistently that pharmacists are the most accessible health care provider and that patients access their pharmacist many more times per week than other health care providers. However, limited access to Internet (many times due to geographic difficulties) in West Virginia makes timely use of important Internet based drug and medical information resources difficult.

As all pharmacists in WV, I am required by newly passed 2010 state law to have access to our state's online Controlled Substances Monitoring Program. This program serves to provide a database of patient prescription information, as it relates to "filled prescriptions" for controlled substances, to decrease patient misuse and divergence of controlled substances. However, I can not access the Internet site on a consistent basis to effectively utilize the resource. In addition, I am required to document my patient care responsibilities for patients I see through our state insurance program's (PEIA) Diabetes Face-to-Face Program. Again, my access is so slow that I can not provide timely documentation of the patient care services that I provide.

The National Broadband Plan is exciting to me because it may offer an avenue for fellow pharmacists in WV to have better access to the Internet. This access could improve the safety, welfare, and overall quality of life for the patients that I serve. With improved access, I will be able to better serve my patients with timely, accurate responses to their medication and health related questions and ensure a safer medication use system in my area.

The National Broadband Plan can help drive real health care reform, but we must continue making strides towards greater accessibility and affordability of both health care and broadband services. Please continue to share your stories with us and check out the broadband plan to learn about the recommendations for health care.
 

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