Broadband is the Achilles heel of telemedicine


Six years ago, I had a stroke and telemedicine saved my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer!

However, although telemedicine is great, it has a serious Achilles’ heel. The fate of adopting telemedicine is closely related to the fate of adopting broadband.

Some people think that telemedicine applications take up very little space on a patient’s computer, so how can broadband become Achilles’ heel? Let me calculate.

No broadband, no telemedicine

“We recently provided the Missouri Legislature with testimony on the relationship between digital equity and telemedicine. Not connecting to the Internet at the necessary speed means you can’t have telemedicine,” McLean Bryant, director of health policy and strategic planning · McClain Bryant Macklin (McClain Bryant Macklin) said the Advance Foundation.

“Broadband is now regarded as the super social determinant of health because it has a direct impact on all other social determinants of health.”

But what if there is no broadband? More than 14 million urban households and nearly 4 million rural households do not have broadband. People of color make up 75% of the uncontacted population in cities and counties.

Telemedicine may be particularly helpful to many people in the United States who do not have paid sick leave or good transportation options. It may be especially valuable for patients with long-term medical problems without primary care doctors or without insurance.

When it’s good enough… not

Broadband in millions of additional homes is not enough to promote telemedicine. Red lines, politics, and an unfavorable economy have plunged low-income communities into outdated, broken infrastructure.

Every year, the billions of dollars that the government spends to replace outdated networks flow through big cities and are squandered by large telecommunications and cable companies before broadband reaches rural households.

For example, the Joint Soybean Council conducted a survey of farm operations across the country in 2021 and found that nearly 60% of American farmers and ranchers believe that they do not have enough Internet connections to conduct business, let alone meet the needs of individuals and families.

Some of the main obstacles to a high-quality Internet include slow speed (21%), high costs (20%), and unreliable services (16%).

“25 Mbps download speed/3 Mbps upload speed is the current definition of broadband, but for homework, business office, telemedicine, and entertainment, 25/3 speed is not good enough anywhere,” the center’s associate professor Christopher Dr. Ali said. Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia, when he was speaking on my Gigabit Nation show.

“We can’t always think of DSL and satellite as broadband. They are not! They come from the era of dial-up and AOL!”

Broadband blues usually stem from capacity issues, not speed issues

Sometimes people use the technical terms “speed” and “capacity” interchangeably when discussing broadband. do not! Understand the difference between broadband speed issues and capacity issues, otherwise you may encounter the extremely painful Achilles’ heel.

“Speed” refers to the speed at which data is transferred from point A to point B. “Capacity” means that your data can be moved from point A to point B.

Maserati has amazing speed potential-but on the bumpy, winding roads (old infrastructure), the ability to reach this speed is severely hampered, and this road is within the range you can see. There are RVs (neighbors’ data).

Consider a kid playing football. He injured his foot and went to the emergency room. The emergency room doctor sends an email to his parents’ home via telemedicine, and then conducts a Zoom session to display the huge X-ray file.

The email may be sent immediately. Between 4 pm and 10 pm, the community’s broadband capacity may be overloaded because students have video-based homework and parents work late at home. The telemedicine session may experience severe garbled characters or delays.

Community broadband is often well-suited to addressing capacity barriers—cities and counties-owned networks, telephone and power cooperatives, wireless ISPs (WISPs), other local ISPs, and public-private partnerships. Ask around! Someone in the town may already be planning to build one. Or maybe your healthy community can lead the way?

More odds and ends

Telemedicine grant proposal without broadband. The FCC has provided more than 350 million U.S. dollars in grants to healthcare organizations to provide telemedicine capabilities-this is great! However, many of their underserved and low-income patients do not have broadband to communicate with grant recipients. Every telemedicine grant proposal must address the issue of broadband connections between patients and healthcare providers and funding issues.

Some people need internet training wheels. Unless they have digital literacy skills, you cannot provide people with computers, the Internet, and telemedicine applications and expect success! The Pew Research Center found that the United States lacks digital literacy, and only 40% of adults correctly answer questions that require digital skills. “When someone has trouble using a telemedicine application, what will happen without PC technical support?” asked Peter Caplan, a management consultant at eHealth Systems & Solutions, based in New York. “If the Internet goes down, who is training patients and what should they do?” Telemedicine projects should have a digital literacy support plan.

Beat the data limit! Large cable television and telecommunications companies set limits on the amount of network content, audio and video streams, and application data that customers can download. When customers exceed their upper limit, the company can charge hundreds of dollars a month. It only takes a few telemedicine meetings and the exchange of pictures or digital images to break the data limit. The hat was suspended during the pandemic and should be suspended permanently.

Redlining will remain active in 2021. The digital red line is the practice of creating and perpetuating inequality among already marginalized groups, especially by severely banning them from accessing the Internet, digital technology, and digital content. Due to the reliance on broadband, telemedicine has been drawn on the red line. Currently, 17 states have imposed some suspended sentences on public broadband. Across the country and every state, activists, politicians, and community stakeholders are fighting these two scourges well. Join them! Their battle is your flight!

We have just started. Efforts to get most people online for telemedicine have just begun. Many people still view telemedicine only as video consultation with healthcare professionals. It is best for people in the community broadband and telemedicine industries to help each other promote adoption through the four-legged stool of digital inclusion: broadband/telemedicine education, digital devices, digital literacy, and health literacy. Let’s finish it!

Craig Settles avoided stroke through telemedicine and brought community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders together through the Telemedicine Broadband Integration Program to move forward.Follow him on twitter @cjsettles101.

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