Broadband Could Be Boon For Rural Clinics

A federal broadband initiative may have implications for the health system, too, NPR reports. "Millions of Americans who live in rural areas travel long distances to get health care. Or they may go without it. But high-speed Internet connections now make it possible to bring a doctor's expertise to patients in far-off places, if those places are connected. As part of its National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission has pledged $400 million a year to connect nearly 12,000 rural health care providers."

On example is Redwoods Rural Health Center in Redway, Calif. The clinic has 4,000 patients and only one doctor, and is 200 miles from San Francisco. "Patients come in with skin problems, cancers, diabetes, hepatitis — all diseases that require expertise [the doctor] may not have. So she has to send patients to doctors in cities 100 or more miles away. That can be hard on many of them, both physically and financially." Broadband could help connect those patients to specialists without the stress of travel (Sydell, 8/17).

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