Struggling rural health providers received a much-needed boost after the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $400 million annual fund for improving connectivity.
Ramping up broadband infrastructure in medically underserved communities would facilitate telehealth programs by allowing providers to transmit patient data and medical images more easily, according to a news release from the FCC.
“Currently, too many clinics and hospitals lack affordable access to even basic broadband connectivity to handle the most basic of telehealth tasks like managing medical records, transmitting an X-ray or MRI, or consulting remotely with a physician,” the FCC noted. “In fact, nearly 30% of federally funded rural health clinics can't afford secure and reliable broadband services.”
The FCC plans to build on its Rural Health Care Pilot Program, launched in 2007, which provides funding for the creation of telehealth networks. Specifically, the proposed plan would entail encouraging public-private partnerships aimed at promoting broadband investment, increasing the affordability of connectivity by sharing costs with providers, and delivering connectivity to renal dialysis centers, skilled nursing facilities and other critical sites.