A federally funded initiative will connect health care providers and establishments serving rural communities, making it easier for people living in those areas to get better health care at a reasonable cost.
The Federal Communications Commission has allocated $417 million to help build 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth networks across 42 states and three U.S. territories. The agency, which allocated the funding Nov. 19, said the program will reduce human error and allow patients to receive care remotely in some cases.
The health care facilities participating in the pilot program include hospitals, clinics, universities and research centers, behavioral health sites, correctional facility clinics, and community health centers.
"In order to receive the benefits of telemedicine, electronic health care records and other health care benefits, health providers must have access to underlying broadband infrastructure," said FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin in a statement. "Without this underlying infrastructure, efforts to implement these advances in health care cannot succeed."
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The funding will support the connection of more than 6,000 public and non-profit health care providers nationwide to broadband telehealth networks, which can be used to transmit health records and process transactions securely.
According to the FCC, the new networks will deliver health services more efficiently, reducing costs and travel time for consumers, decreasing medical errors, and allowing health care providers to share critical information.
Participants in the pilot program will be required to implement health information technology standards as set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where feasible.
The initiative is part of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
"Broadband infrastructure for health care is particularly critical to those living in rural areas, where access to medical services can be limited," Martin said. "This may not seem like a big deal to those of us who need only drive a couple miles to visit our local doctor or dentist. But it can mean everything to those patients who dont have that luxury or who dont have access to health care at all."
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