Telehealth Changes Will Increase Rural Broadband Demand

From the Daily Yonder

New federal policies will make it easier for Americans to use telehealth. Rural communities should be looking for ways to leverage the new demand into better internet connections at home.

Several policy changes from Washington, D.C., should accelerate urban and rural telehealth deployments. On November 1 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the body that manages these two healthcare programs, finalized new rules that include payment reimbursements for telehealth.

These changes are good news for communities that want broadband to help expand access to healthcare. They will also be welcomed who hope that expanded use of telehealth will increase the number of broadband subscribers. Currently, telehealth service isn’t covered by Medicare and Medicaid in many rural homes, and they don’t reimburse telehealth at all in urban areas.

One of the major telehealth benefits is that it enables people to stay at work or home and have electronic doctor “house calls.” Medicaid and Medicare, as a guard against fraud, required patients to get telehealth treatments at a healthcare provider’s facility. Many private-sector insurers take their cues from Medicaid and Medicare as to what healthcare services they reimburse. Altogether, this has stifled telehealth adoption.

Eric Wicklund, editor of mHealth Intelligence, says that “the CMS changes open the door for more telehealth and remote patient monitoring programs. In turn, this pressures community broadband providers to make sure healthcare providers have the resources to deliver these services.” The FCC has publicly pledged to boost broadband access in rural areas, and hopefully the CMS’ actions will intensify the FCC’s commitment

 

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