Using high speed Internet technology expands access and quality of health care. The use of advanced communications technology to transmit medical data and imaging in real-time and linking patients to physicians for direct consultation, removes geographical barriers and allows people to receive medical care when and where it's needed.
In the face of rising medical costs and increasing gaps in insurance coverage, the cost-cutting efficiencies of telemedicine - the delivery of quality health-related services and information using telecommunications technologies - are more valuable than ever. Broadband Internet access brings affordable and quality health care closer to reality.
Telemedicine has become an important element of efficient healthcare delivery, which promotes better patient care, and even saves lives. With medical costs rising, and the availability of insurance limited, the cost saving benefits of telemedicine are also important.
Broadband facilitates efficiency in healthcare delivery and creates opportunities for doctors and healthcare specialists to work together as a virtual team – with specialists located in any part of the world. A family practitioner in a small rural town can send medical images of a patient, to a specialist in any part of the world for an instant expert consultation. Test results from a hospital emergency room or laboratory can be sent to radiologist or doctor in seconds, making rapid diagnosis a reality.
Doctors are also now sending prescriptions directly from their offices to pharmacies, greatly reducing errors, with automatic checking for interactions.
Broadband Adoption Impact on Healthcare
The value of broadband in the health care space is just beginning to register. There are several aspects to healthcare on the internet:
Doctor to Doctor: This includes everything from watching surgery in real-time to being able to query other physicians on the efficacy of a course of treatment on behalf of a patient.
Doctor to Patient: This allows a physician to directly contact a patient through (typically) e-mail to inform the patient of the results of a test, a reminder of an appointment, or to ask for the patient to take some action – from coming in for a consultation to going to their pharmacy to pick up a prescription.
Patient to Doctor: Perhaps more important than the Doctor-to-Patient route this channel allows physicians or other health-care professionals to respond to specific questions from existing patients or answer more general questions from a potential patient who may be looking for the best medical match.
Doctor to Pharmacy: The most common example of broadband use; the ability of a doctor to write an on-line script on behalf of a patient; for a pharmacy to ask for an on-line prescription renewal; or for a pharmacist to alert a physician to a possible contra-indication of a prescription when taken in conjunction with other medications about which the pharmacist is aware, but the physician may not be.
Patient to Patient: Websites which are essentially on-line support groups in the model social networks with a close focus on patients with similar disorders or for people who are caregivers for those with a similar problem.
As with other social networking sites, individuals can, and do, conduct private on-line conversations which can have an enormously positive impact on helping each other deal with a disease or condition; keeping up-to-date with the latest developments; and debunking or correcting bad or outdated information.
The common thread which runs through all of these is the use of broadband for the electronic transfer of storing, retrieving and transferring patient information. Getting people online is a critical first step, but the goal must be to keep people online through sustainable efforts that promote utilization and help each user derive value from the Internet in his or her own way.
Ultimately, it is well publicized information, paired with the collaborative spirit - in which government officials, business leaders, active community members, and the broader community work together - that can move a community toward a "culture of broadband adoption" and increase the benefits of expanded access and usage. Moreover, informed, committed community leaders will naturally wish to share the benefits of widespread adoption, the media will report on the effort, and residents will become more curious.
Step by step, you are laying the groundwork for the most effective part of the awareness-raising campaign for which the Broadband Adoption Toolkit was designed: A broadband adoption campaign to engage residents about the barriers they perceive, and educate them about the benefits of broadband adoption. This engagement should be designed as an important step in launching a meaningful transformative process that will inspire confidence among participants to seize these benefits for themselves.