With rural broadband lagging, some see mHealth solutions in old-school tech

In Eastern South Dakota, patients drive as many as six hours each way to critical access facilities that not only are small, but also as far as 100 miles apart, according to a recent Search Health IT post. Although telehealth can improve access to healthcare in rural areas such as these, access to broadband is still lagging.

"If I'm in San Jose, I have 4G network; if I'm in Wishek, North Dakota [population 1,002], I'm lucky to have 1G," Donald Kosiak Jr., an emergency physician and medical director of Avera eCARE, part of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health network, told SearchHealthIT.

Although AT&T and Verizon claim their 4G networks will blanket most of the country within the next two or three years, Kosiak said he foresees a problem for rural communities. "Those little gaps in coverage are where I need to connect," he said.

So what's the solution?

Kosiak said he thinks rural healthcare organizations could forego wireless in favor of old-school T1 lines that already are in place.

"We need to reach out to other industries that are leaps and bounds ahead of us in sharing data and pushing it back and forth," he told SearchHealthIT. "So maybe I can just piggyback off of existing technology that's already in rural communities--banks, high-tech industries, big mills [and] big meat packing plants probably have all sorts of connectivity for data, and maybe the hospital doesn't need [its] own."

To Lean more:
- read the SearchHealthIT article