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U.S. Increasing Health-Care Broadband Access

FCC reforms hike video conferencing for telemedicine

The U.S. government is reforming its universal service support program for health care and is transitioning its existing Internet programs to a fund that is designed to increase health-care provider access to broadband and therefore expand online programs such as video conferencing for telemedicine or training.

On March 1, the Federal Communications Commission posted a Federal Register notice—Rural Health Care Support Mechanism; Final Rule—that says, “broadband connectivity has become an essential part of 21st century medical care.”

Such connectivity is used for transmitting electronic health records, sending X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans to specialists at a distant hospital, or for video conferencing for telemedicine or training, the FCC says. Such access to broadband for medical providers saves lives while lowering health-care costs and improving patient experiences, the commission adds.

Therefore, the FCC’s changes to its universal service support programs for health care, include transitioning its existing Internet Access and Rural Health Care Pilot programs into a new, efficient Healthcare Connect Fund. “The fund will expand health-care provider access to broadband, especially in rural areas, and encourage the creation of state and regional broadband health care networks,” the commission says.

The reform becomes effective April 1, the FCC says.

Click here to access the Federal Register notice.