Broadband internet proves a hurdle as telehealth services continue to rise in popularity – Boston University News Service – Boston, Massachusetts

Date:

Boston, Massachusetts 2022-01-13 04:09:00 –

By Haley Chi-Sing
Boston University State Capitol Program

Boston – The COVID-19 pandemic has forced almost every company and industry to move to virtual overnight, including healthcare systems.Medical consultations, physical examinations and check-ins are all online, and almost two years later, more and more people seem to prefer this method, with telemedicine services. 38 times the level before the pandemic..

Despite positive patient feedback, lawmakers and doctors are asking the same question. If the patient does not have the appropriate equipment to log on to the appointment, can he or she be able to provide appropriate virtual counseling, whether physical or behavioral?

Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, Associate Professor of Healthcare Policy and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said: “Lack of internet access is a new barrier many patients face when accessing care.”

Telemedicine services have proven useful in treating minorities and poorly serviced people. Especially black and Latin communities People who weren’t near the clinic or doctors. These demographics have also proved to be very likely to be infected with COVID, further pushing ethnic minorities into virtual consultations.

“The digital divide has a lot to do with the poor and color communities,” said CEO Michael Curry. In a statement issued by the Massachusetts Community Health Center Federation.

According to Boston25 About 1,200 families in Boston alone did not have access to the internet As of August 2020, there were more reports and I didn’t have a computer at home. Mass INC reported: 40-50% of homes with internet access Broadband service is completely lacking. Neither doctors nor patients can make appointments without basics such as computers and proper internet access.

As the digital divide becomes more and more apparent, state legislators are actively looking for ways to support low socio-economic demographics through funding and bill proposals to expand broadband Internet.

“Researchers have realized that broadband internet access is a social decision for health, which has become even more apparent and important with pandemics and COVID,” said D-Acton Rep. Danillo Sena. I am.

Senna is one of the leading proponents applying for a formal investigation into the relationship between Massachusetts broadband internet and public medical services. Senna said the proposed first steps in the bill would include financing public housing where tenants would be guaranteed broadband access to the entire building.

“Access to broadband, or access to the Internet and Wi-Fi, is now more of a right than a privilege,” says Sena. “That’s why we submitted this invoice because it’s so important that people have access to Wi-Fi.”

On a much wider scale, Senate Massachusetts passed the Patient First Act in 2020 As a means of ensuring that residents of all states have access to adequate medical access and services. Since then, Senator Karen Spilka of D-Ashland has made ensuring that all residents of Massachusetts have equitable telemedicine access, including broadband internet, as one of her top priorities. ..

“A part of what [Gov. Charlie Baker and the Senate] The story is to get in touch with and stay in touch with the state-wide community that has or lacks strong broadband access, “says Spilka. “And, as a whole, the state has consciously endeavored to help communities in different parts of the state gain access and build a more credible foundation.”

According to Spilka, the Senate has stepped up funding from ARPA through various bills and proposals to expand Internet access to lower socio-economic demographics. ARPA is also funded to provide financial support to residents who cannot afford the necessary internet charges.

“We need to double our efforts to ensure that all Massachusetts zip codes have strong and reliable access to broadband and the Internet and can connect to them,” says Spilka.

Similarly, private organizations, including the Massachusetts Health Hospital Association, are working to overcome this digital disability, especially by seeking partnerships with state officials.

“Telehealth is a permanent part of our healthcare system in the future, but it will only reach its full potential when it is accessible to everyone throughout the Federation,” MHA said. Health Equity Director Akriti Bhambi said. “MHA and its members are working with elected leaders to help all community members get the most out of their virtual services, regardless of location or means.”

As the private and public spheres begin to work together to promote equitable telemedicine services, the question is how these partnerships can expand broadband access.

“There are some fairly archaic Medicare regulations that limit where telemedicine services can be provided to beneficiaries in post-pandemic situations. Many hospitals expect to be addressed by the federal government before the end of the pandemic. I think, “says Mara McDermott. , Vice President of McDermott + Consulting.

Stephen Bernstein, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, explained in the same memo that the government could retreat to stricter pre-pandemic health and infrastructure policies rather than expanding new needs.

“Fear is a world that goes back to the automatic past, where old rules are automatically applied, as the federal government has turned off its mitigation (which it hasn’t done yet) and different states are starting to do the same. I think that’s happening as a result, “says Bernstein. “It’s crazy. We’ve made progress. Why do you want to do that?”

With the new governor inaugurated in 2023, lawmakers say the next steps for expanding Massachusetts broadband and telemedicine are still unclear. But there is an optimistic view.

“I think this is an advancement we have made. We need to keep working on it,” Spilka said. “And I think every governor will continue to take up the mantle about this, because it is also very important for the health of our inhabitants, financial vitality, our federation, and the education of our inhabitants. is.”

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