by Neal Neuberger

Technological advances have brought many improvements to modern life, and today’s broadband networks can actually deliver health care and health information that saves lives. The lightning-fast evolution of broadband technology has indeed begun a revolution in health care—one that can benefit us all.

Innovations in broadband technologies have also raised questions about how health care providers and institutions alike can maximize the benefits of this technology, both today and into the future.  The Eighth Annual National Health IT Week, held this year from September 16th–20th, presented an opportunity for policymakers and health care industry leaders to gather and discuss solutions and craft policies and strategies to ensure continued adoption and development of these health IT innovations.

Over the course of just a few years, broadband-enabled health care technologies, including telemedicine and mHealth, have presented new possibilities to hospitals, medical personnel, and patients.  The ability to access and transmit health records, information, and diagnostic images at unprecedented speeds allows easier, more effective collaboration between medical personnel, resulting in quicker diagnoses and better results.  Video teleconferencing is now being used to connect patients in rural or remote areas with specialists who can perform consultations remotely.  Across the country, hospitals and clinics are using innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in cost-effective ways.

Increased access to high-speed broadband has given patients access to technologies and solutions that are more convenient, as well.  With modern networks and connectivity, it’s now possible for patients with chronic conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma—to receive care in their own homes, via wireless devices that can collect and transmit medical data directly to health care professionals.  These methods eliminate the need for some office visits, keeping costs down, and they also empower patients to take charge of their health and participate in their own treatment.  New developments in wireless health devices are helping seniors and people with disabilities to enjoy a higher quality of life and to live independently in their own homes.  Innovative new wireless devices, wearable biosensors, and mobile apps make it possible for patients and doctors to work together to achieve better health and wellness, both within and outside of medical facilities.

Modern networks allow hospitals and medical personnel to reach individuals and communities that have traditionally struggled to gain access to health care, often due to geographical, financial, or cultural barriers.  Reducing health disparities that affect certain populations is an important goal, and broadband-enabled health care technologies can help achieve that goal by making patient-centered, cost-effective care available to more people and communities.   

Access to modern broadband networks and speeds has already begun to transform and improve today’s health care.  The resulting innovations offer exciting possibilities for enhanced health and wellness, improved quality of care, expanded access to health care, and better treatment options.  To continue this progress and these impressive results, we will need enhanced, upgraded broadband networks in place across the country.  The theme of this year’s Health IT Week was “One Voice, One Vision.”  That’s fitting, because I believe we all share a positive vision of advancing health care technologies that lead to better outcomes.  It is clear that increased and expanded access to high-speed broadband can extend the reach of doctors and hospitals, delivering better care and better access to care.

Neal Neuberger is President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies.