Telehealth and community broadband, in illness and in health

Telehealth and community broadband are symbiotic technologies.

Much more than mere video chats, telehealth uses intranets and Internet networks to observe, diagnose, initiate, or medically intervene, administer, monitor, record, and / or report on the ongoing care people receive when they are ill. , injured or want to stay. ok. We can save so much money and time that we invest in healthcare if we make the most of telehealth and telemedicine tools. Public health, in particular, can take advantage of telehealth with great advantage.

Community broadband, meanwhile, refers to networks owned by towns, cities, and counties, local telephone and electricity cooperatives, wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), and other local ISPs and often public-private partnerships. or counties.

But large companies tend to have high prices, suboptimal service, and weak infrastructure, so communities across the country are building their own. These networks benefit the people they serve.

Telehealth coupled with community broadband has great financial and quality of life benefits. These technologies also pave the way for digital equity and health equity among neglected communities of towns, cities, and counties.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s quite difficult to have telehealth without broadband.

Strategically speaking

We break down the telehealth into three categories and consider as an example the public libraries that decide to offer telehealth in some of their offices.

Real-time telehealth refers to activities that take place “here and now,” which often involve medical or healthcare professionals. Perhaps the largest offices in the library can designate reading rooms or purchase telehealth kiosks so that users can schedule an hour or go to have private and secure telehealth sessions with their doctor in real time.

Storing and forwarding telehealth is collecting medical data, digital images, etc., and sending them electronically to another location for further evaluation. Suppose a telehealth company can schedule an hour to come home to do lab work that they pick up and take to the lab on Tuesday. On Thursday, go to a telehealth kiosk in the library for an appointment with your doctor because your doctor wants to review large files of lab work with you, and your home Internet connection is too slow.

“Passive” telehealth refers to the storage and access to digital knowledge bases, health and wellness web content, and interactive software applications that help us understand, prevent, treat, or recover from threats to our physical and mental health. After your telehealth appointment, ask the librarian for help sorting out your medical videos related to your diagnosis.

Libraries and their healthcare partners need to make sure they have adequate bandwidth for multiple audio and video streams. This requires business-level Internet access, not quality consumer bandwidth. Whether wireless or fiber, the bandwidth must be synchronous, that is, equal upload and download speeds, and have enough capacity to facilitate multiple video streams.

A framework for tactical action

Here are six tactical ways to use telehealth to harness or maximize public health in a community along with the associated uses of broadband.

1. Reinvent the visit to the doctor’s office for a variety of health practices, such as observation, screening, data collection, data exchange, and medical advice

Those in public health and other areas of health care should take the position that where there is very fast broadband and at least 10 feet x 10 feet of space available, this is a potential place to develop a patient / doctor relationship. For example, grab a hairdresser or hairdresser, a laptop, decent broadband, a healthcare partner and money, and there’s a potential telehealth site.

2. Marry chronic telehealth care and home care so that constant appointments and treatments can be made less intrusive at home, or possibly in an office at work

In July, the White House recruited 1,000 barbershops and hairdressers to be vaccination centers against COVID. Consider designing some of them as Telehealth Ground Zero for 1) financing a fixed wireless broadband construction on top of several nearby structures and 2) distributing wireless routers to homes in the immediate area. Have a community WISP sell and support a permanent broadband solution, and hire stores and the salon to introduce customers to telehealth. Perhaps health departments can monitor chronic health care.

3. Improve emergency response to save more lives

Build autonomous high-power Internet stations along rural routes to hospitals to which emergency vehicles can connect in the event of deteriorating patient conditions, or designate schools, libraries, and other buildings as stations. of telehealth for vehicles. Use these stations in natural disasters when people could be isolated from any medical help for days or weeks.

4. Expand the efficiency of mental health care delivery

About 20,000 people per 100,000 suffer from mental illness, but there are only 268 mental health providers per 100,000 people in the United States, according to the United Health Foundation. Telehealth can increase provider efficiency and reduce downtime. Carly McCord, director of clinical services at Texas A&M Telehealth Counseling Clinic, said: your connection. mistakes, or you miss a word and have to say, ‘I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?’, that’s a big deal. “

5. Improve care for the elderly and facilitate aging on the site

Various aspects of telehealth are aimed at older people, but the main goal is to ensure that older people continue to receive health care and live safely in their homes for longer. A key broadband element of this telehealth equation is smart home technologies that include wireless controlled sensors. Some sensors can now determine if a person has been in bed or has fallen to the ground, is eating regularly, and is taking their medication on time.

6. Reimagine what hospital care can be, one of the few good things learned from the pandemic

Think differently about hospitals. “Converting dormitory facilities to manage remote control of patients recovering from surgical procedures is one of the easiest to set up and has the lowest cost,” said Peter Caplan, managing consultant at eHealth Systems & Solutions of New York.

Last year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reused 2,000 rooms in five hotels to accommodate asymptomatic people who require isolation due to COVID-19 to ease the burden on hospitals and economically strengthen hotels whose occupations they have had a great impact.

After sleep comes work

These telehealth strategies and tactics can provide a structured reflection on how to deploy telehealth and broadband together. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It takes a lot of work and analysis of the needs of the community, as well as a lot of planning from community stakeholders to make these visions a reality. Is your community ready for work?

Earlier this month I was a guest expert on “Ask Me Anything!” where I answered questions about stronger broadband and telehealth proposals for federal grants. Read the question and answer file here.

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles pays for it by uniting community broadband teams and health workers through telehealth and broadband integration initiatives. Follow him on Twitter @ cjsettles101.

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