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More broadband access equals more access to health care

Recently, a Dartmouth study described access to broadband as essentially “more access to health care.”

 Lois DeBerry
 Rep. Lois M. Deberry

Health Care Reform is one of the most pressing topics being discussed on Capitol Hill. The White House is working to help make health care more affordable, accessible and the health system more sustainable for all Americans. To meet this goal, the Administration should consider the role that broadband technology can play in bringing affordable health care to all citizens.

Recently, a Dartmouth study described access to broadband as essentially “more access to health care.” With advances in telemedicine and increased knowledge of IT healthcare, broadband technology is improving the overall quality and delivery of health care services by transforming the way doctors interact with patients and with how patients can access information. As stated in the study, “Remote monitoring made possible by broadband can facilitate post-operative care and chronic disease management without hospitalization or institutionalization.”

Broadband technology also enhances medical recordkeeping by combining electronic databases, giving patients and authorized providers instant and centralized access to information, treatment regimens and medical images. These implications are especially important when considering those living in low-income and minority communities.

To learn how we as leaders can help improve health care through broadband in low-income and minority communities, earlier this year I attended the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women Congressional Broadband Technology and Media Forum, which convened a delegation of women congressional officials, mayors, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and members of the Obama Administration.

During the forum, women leaders addressed the impact of broadband in the areas of jobs, health care, economic opportunities and education for women and families. During a robust lineup of roundtable discussions, we also identified programs that can help to remove barriers between those without access to technology and the rest of the world. For example, Comcast’s www.internetessentials.com helps families across the country receive Internet services, including service for only $9.95 a month, computers for just $149.99 + tax, and free Internet training.

The women leaders also met with members of President Obama’s administration to discuss technologies like the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Blue Button initiative. Blue Button makes it easier for veterans to instantly download electronic copies of their medical records. The VA is working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make this technology available to all government health plan beneficiaries.

Thus, increased access to broadband technology and knowledge of how it can positively impact how we manage and monitor our health can ultimately result in saving money and saving lives.

(Lois M. Deberry is Speaker Pro Tempore of the Tennessee House of Representatives, District 91, and the Tennessee State Director of Women in Government.)


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