Friday, September 10, 2010

FCC telemedicine investment to help rural areas

Rural health care is among the areas that stand to benefit from the Obama administration's National Broadband Plan because the Federal Communications Commission pledged $400 million a year to connect nearly 12,000 rural health-care providers. FCC has had a rural telemedicine pilot program at the University of California, Davis, which Chairman Julius Genachowski calls a success, Laura Sydell of National Public Radio reports. "If you have rural connectivity for health care, then patients don't have to drive two or three or four hours for their treatments — instead, [they] can stay back where they live, consult with a medical profession[al] remotely," Genachowski told Sydell.

Dr. Tom Nesbitt, who heads the program, told Sydell the UC Davis hospital serves around 3,000 rural patients every year. "The demand would even be greater if the remote locations had equipment, bandwidth and training," Nesbitt said. FCC maintains by shifting Universal Service Fund money to help rural telemedicine the agency can save a lot of money in health care, but some critics of government overspending are still wary. "One of the greatest forms of savings will come from health care spending that we don't have to make because we catch problems earlier. ... We can treat and diagnose remotely," Genachowski told Sydell. (Read more)

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