Broadband Internet Access: Closing the Remote Healthcare Gap
Broadband Internet connection is the backbone of technology innovation in remote healthcare. From patient monitoring to video consultation, technologies powered by broadband connectivity enable delivery of higher-quality, more cost-effective, and more patient-centered care.
Confronting the access challenge
As we explored in a previous blog, SDOH are all the conditions that affect health outside the hospital or doctor’s office, from socioeconomic status to a patient’s physical environment and social support network. Understanding these factors is critical to improving patient care, since most of a patient’s life is lived outside the four walls of the traditional healthcare delivery setting.
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To close the digital divide, the federal government has heightened its focus on deploying broadband connectivity in every community across the U.S. Seven years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a National Broadband Plan to connect up to 100 million American households to high-speed broadband service by 2020. While this national initiative continues to roll out, healthcare innovators are striving to bridge the broadband gap with their own solutions.
Covering all the options
One company that is succeeding in closing the access divide is Vivify Health, an international digital health innovator. “Without connectivity to cloud-based services, robust data platforms, and telehealth channels for remote care, providers in underserved communities can be at a disadvantage,” says Eric Rock, Vivify’s founder and CEO. Vivify offers tiered service levels that can meet patients’ needs for remote care regardless of their technology capabilities.
“We connect to most of our customers’ patients through cellular data networks, which today reach more than 98 percent of Americans. Patients can access multimedia educational content and videoconferencing through our full managed kit or bring your own device (BYOD) solution. For those who do not have cellular connectivity or devices, but who do have an analog phone line, our interactive voice response (IVR) solution fills the gap. Through IVR, providers can push a prescriptive daily care plan to patients, finding any risk indicators and coaching the patient to success.”
Considering a large-scale success story
Vivify has been a key partner in a large-scale nationwide initiative to scale up broadband access for a targeted group: American veterans. Earlier this year, in partnership with Iron Bow Technologies, Vivify was awarded a five-year home telehealth contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve veterans’ access to quality remote healthcare.
“An estimated 1.4 million of the nation’s 21.8 million veterans are living below the federal poverty level or in rural areas with limited broadband access,” says Bill Paschall, Vivify’s vice president of business development. “Accelerating broadband deployment and healthcare services for this group has long been a priority for federal lawmakers.”
“With the Vivify solution, wherever veterans are, they have access to care without having to drive long distances. As network operators increase coverage, we’re seeing a marked increase in the percentage of veterans who can access remote patient monitoring services.
Connecting the dots
Recently, the FCC released a tool that charts internet access across the nation. It shows that broadband access gaps are widespread throughout several Southern and Western states, many of which have populations with a higher-than-average risk of chronic disease.
“Connecting the dots with the right technology and connectivity for each patient will improve chronic disease management for these underserved populations,” says Dunnie Norman, Vivify’s senior vice president of sales. “With chronic disease care absorbing more than three-quarters of healthcare spending, remote care tools can help significantly trim the cost of such long-term conditions as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
“As the public and private sectors continue to expand robust broadband to reach the ‘last mile’ of access, we can look forward to a world of reduced health disparities—one of better health, better patient outcomes, and better quality of life overall.”