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mHealth Growth Depends on Rural Broadband Access

mHealth growth in rural and underserved communities demands better broadband access for remote monitoring.

mHealth growth demands more accessible broadband.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are building up their health IT infrastructures to support increased interests in mHealth growth for remote care and patient monitoring. Increased mHealth programs also calls for better broadband access for patients.

A recent Research and Markets report related the increase of mHealth technology to the general shift towards value-based care and how advanced mHealth technology continues to demonstrate its effectiveness in increasing patient care and saving organizations money.

“Support from healthcare professionals, reimbursement entities and government agencies will also increase as the body of literature documenting the wide range of benefits of mHealth continues to grow,” report authors stated. “Furthermore, the continued acceleration of mobile penetration at a global level will continue to make mHealth services and solutions possible, even in the most remote areas.”

mHealth technology involves the patient in their care and can help them be more aware of their personal health needs.

Tools like dose reminders can prevent future complications for chronic conditions because it’s easier for patients to self-manage their condition. This reduces hospital visits and saves organization’s money.

The inclusion of mHealth programs also saves entities money by saving physical space in in the hospital by remotely meeting with patients instead of hosting them in the building.

The report also emphasized the work of non-profit organizations such as mHealth Alliance and the World Healthcare Organization’s (WHO) push for mHealth in rural or underserved areas. One of the biggest and most effective uses of mHealth technology is providing rural and underserved areas with healthcare providers and specialists to which those areas would otherwise not have access.

“A key benefit of mHealth technologies, if not the most important one, is their ability to fulfill this unmet need and provide continuous healthcare at a distance,” the report stated.

mHealth depends heavily on an organization’s ability to harness broadband technology. Wi-Fi networks are not reliable enough at a distance to support a fully functional mHealth deployment. Patient access to broadband technology is the biggest challenge mHealth faces when treating underserved areas.

Earlier this year AMIA released a letter urging the FCC to categorize broadband access among the social determinants of health as it continues to develop policies and programs in the future in regards to mHealth and telemedicine.

AMIA stated that healthcare is being “transformed by the availability and accessibility of broadband-enabled services and technologies and the development of life-saving wireless medical devices.”

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, grow, work, and age. They include socioeconomic status, education, employment, physical environment, and social support. AMIA believes that social determinants include access to health information and care via broadband-enabled technologies.

The FCC released a public notice back in April seeking comments and data on actions to accelerate the adoption and accessibility of broadband-enabled healthcare solutions and advanced technologies.

The public notice stated that broadband networks are becoming more significant to the national wellbeing and that maximizing their availability will enable all Americans to take advantage of 21st century healthcare.

The FCC is seeking information on how it can assist in the adoption and accessibility of broadband enabled healthcare solution, particularly in rural areas. The information will help the Commission identify specific areas where broadband connectivity is lacking.

mHealth technology has proven its usefulness in helping organizations cut back on onsite costs and improving patient care by involving patients more in their own personal healthcare. However, as the demand for mHealth tools and programs grows, organizations need to determine how their infrastructure is going to handle the increase in broadband activity.

mHealth incentives also need to consider what broadband resources are available to patients in rural and underserved areas. mHealth programs cannot function properly without secure and reliable broadband access.

Supporting the adoption and accessibility of broadband wireless for all communities will help future mHealth programs be successful.