Telemedicine can improve community's economic health, too

Telemedicine can not only enhance healthcare delivery to key populations, but also improve the economic health of the community, according to an article at GigaOM.

In an International Economic Development Council survey, 43 percent of respondents said they view broadband-enabled healthcare services as a key issue, but only a third say their community's broadband speed is adequate to enable those services and to attract new physicians and research projects. Another third said it's adequate, but could be better--indicating that as demand on that infrastructure increases, it might not keep up.

The article highlights communities that have boosted broadband capacity--and the community's economic health--through telemedicine, including:

  • Danville, Virginia, built its own fiber network that helps Danville Regional Medical Center and area clinics transfer large files and provide medical services that attract business to town. 
  • A high-speed network in Chattanooga, Tennesee, connects the city's radiologists' homes and hospitals, allowing them to offer new services.
  • And the Illinois Medical District in Chicago plans a 100-gigabit network that will connect more than 40 healthcare facilities.

"As it becomes more apparent to economic developers and broadband project teams that telemedicine has great potential to directly or indirectly improve local economies in both urban as well as rural areas, expect more projects of this type," writes broadband consultant Craig Settles.

Barriers to the expansion of telemedicine must be addressed, advocates told the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee during a hearing last week, including reimbursement, licensure across state lines and limitations on services to rural areas, reports Health Data Management. The subcommittee is taking comments through June 16 on expanding access to telehealth.

Technology isn't the only factor at play in successful telehealth programs. A cost-effective sustainable teleheath strategy requires providers and payers to understand the market and engagement between providers, patients and communities, a recent EY report advised

Costs, benefits, barriers and outcomes, including clinical outcomes, are among the integral socioeconomic factors at play in telehealth implementations, according to a framework proposed at Telemedicine and e-Health.

To learn more:
- find the GigaOM article
- read the Health Data Management story
- here's the IEDC survey (.pdf)

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