On March 8, 2018, Linda J. Sheppard, J.D., KHI team leader, provided testimony regarding how the lack of broadband affects health care access and outcomes in rural areas. Recent literature suggests that the lack of broadband can impact the ability of patients in rural areas to access certain types of health care services and ultimately impact their health outcomes.
Telehealth/telemedicine (the remote delivery of health care services) has the potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas by providing improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the ability for patients to remain close to home, and the ability for rural health care providers to sharpen and maintain their skills. However, the success of telemedicine is dependent upon access to strong, reliable broadband service.
Broadband connectivity is also being viewed as a social determinant of health, an environmental factor that is a driver for health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. While an individual’s health is certainly dependent upon genetics and access to health care, broadband connectivity and the ability to make all types of health care services available to all individuals, no matter where they live, has become a significant environmental factor in health.