A fast and reliable broadband internet connection is great for listening to streaming music, watching videos and engaging in console-based gameplay. But above and beyond the world of entertainment, high quality broadband internet service is especially valuable and important for medical purposes. With this in mind, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently committed to upgrading and expanding its program designed primarily to serve rural areas: the Healthcare Connect Fund.
What is the Healthcare Connect Fund?
Back in 1996, the Telecommunications Act brought about the establishment of the FCC’s Rural Health Care program, an initiative designed to serve the healthcare needs of patients and facilities in outlying areas. Who knew back then what the communications landscape would look like today? Modern communications technology and the benefits it brings to medicine has far outstepped the possibilities imagined in the previous millennium. The program set up in the late 90s isn’t able to keep up with today’s technological demands.
About ten years after the Rural Health Care program was established, the FCC began revisiting how the program was structured and assessed how it had been serving medical needs and how it could adapt to future technological changes. Born of those assessments, the new Healthcare Connect Fund has been created to embrace the power of broadband in support of improving rural healthcare.
The focus of this most recent incarnation of the FCC’s healthcare support fund specifically spotlights broadband access. Its purpose is to increase rural healthcare organizations’ access to broadband services to facilitate telemedicine consultations and support improved collaboration between rural and urban medical centers. The Fund includes plans for upgrading outdated lines to support greater bandwidth transmissions, earmarks for providing the infrastructure and the necessary equipment required for broadband communications and setting up healthcare provider networks.
Another aim of the Healthcare Connect Fund is to stimulate the establishment of state and regional broadband networks dedicated to supporting healthcare purposes. All of the Fund’s elements work together to bring about the ultimate goals of lowering patient costs while enhancing services overall for medical teams, particularly in rural areas.
The FCC anticipates that implementing the Fund’s plans will result in cutting costs for broadband-supported healthcare networks in half. The bulk of the savings would be realized in time and money saved in everyday healthcare activities, thanks to tasks managed via broadband communications.
A more efficient system can help medical professionals accomplish more and do it better in less time, putting less of a strain on medical costs. Many millions of dollars have already been saved in pilot programs established and run in anticipation of the Fund’s overhaul. Those pilot programs are serving as successful blueprints for programs to be managed by the Healthcare Connect Fund.
The scope of the Healthcare Connect Fund may reach into related realms, possibly adding skilled nursing facilities under its auspices.
Faster test results can result in faster and more accurate diagnoses. When every minute counts, expanding healthcare broadband support can truly mean the difference between life and death.