Friday, January 11, 2019

New laws make telehealth easier, will likely increase need and demand for high-speed internet in rural areas

New rules that allow Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for treatment via telehealth are a boon for rural residents, and are likely to increase rural need and demand for broadband internet.

"One of the major telehealth benefits is that it enables people to stay at work or home and have electronic doctor 'house calls,'" Craig Settles reports for The Daily Yonder. "Medicaid and Medicare, as a guard against fraud, required patients to get telehealth treatments at a healthcare provider’s facility. Many private-sector insurers take their cues from Medicaid and Medicare as to what healthcare services they reimburse. Altogether, this has stifled telehealth adoption."

Since the new laws make telehealth a more viable option for rural residents, community internet providers will see rising demand for reliable, affordable broadband, Eric Wicklund, editor of mHealth Intelligence, told Settles. 

Better telehealth availability can work two ways: not only can urban doctors reach rural patients, but rural doctors could also reach urban patients. Specifically, easier telehealth capability could lure mental health doctors like psychiatrists to rural areas who are tired of living in the city and want to work remotely, Settles writes.

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