Written by Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator, Rural Utilities Services
Remote learning, teaching, and service delivery are becoming a way of life, and nowhere is that truer than in rural regions.
Digital networks and new technologies are emerging to bring more cost-effective and high quality telemedical services to rural populations across the country. The financial distance penalty so often assumed to be part of rural life appears to be receding as our broadband networks are expanding. With medical record keeping systems moving to digital formats, the opportunity to have records and diagnostic tests “move” with you from doctor to doctor or from doctor to clinic is becoming more commonplace, as is the availability of sophisticated diagnostic procedures and specialized help, again through the broadband networks being built with USDA funding support in metro and rural regions.
Telemedicine promises lower costs plus expanded services, even though that sounds like an impossible combination. Digital technologies and broadband networks are making it feasible to bring the medical mainstream into rural regions. This is the power of telemedicine.
Several federal agencies – the Federal Communications Commission, USDA, The Department of Health and Human Services, and the Veterans Administration among them – have been supporting telemedicine efforts over the years, and we now hope to use social media in order to get some ideas from the public about the power of telemedicine. This is a “tipping point” in terms of federal investment, medical innovation, organizational interest, and public awareness. We’re interested in learning from both the people receiving telemedicine-based services, as well as the people working with organizations that establish and use these systems to provide care. Using our forum site on The Power of Telemedicine we would like to hear from you.
About what? Your experiences with telemedicine. How have they been useful to you, or how could they be improved? What has worked well, and what not so well? What would you like to see in the way of new telemedicine services? Mobile applications? In-home services? Something else?
We hope to use your input to improve our various programs. A massive effort is underway to smooth the way different agencies invest in telehealth and telemedicine, and the net result should be a better understanding of how programs can maximize the public benefit. The Administration is investing in the networks through the broadband programs administered by USDA and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and it has made large commitments to health information technology, but we need your help to make this work well. Please join the dialogue.