Connectivity Considerations for Telehealth Programs
Access to high-speed broadband internet continues to be a barrier for many rural telehealth programs. Lack of connectivity can hinder the implementation and expansion of telehealth programs that require live-video connections between patients and providers. Dropped calls and delays in video feeds can interrupt care delivery and lead to patient dissatisfaction with telehealth.
Some rural telehealth programs are adapting to limited connectivity by focusing on services that use cellular networks or text messaging services to reach patients. For example, to address limited access to broadband in rural Oregon, the Direct to Patient Tele-Behavioral Health Services program offers a text-based option for behavioral therapies. Patients without internet access may find it easier to connect with providers through text messages.
Other rural programs are building partnerships to implement long-term solutions to connectivity in their communities. See Rural Health Funding & Opportunities by Topic: Broadband in the Online Library for programs to improve broadband connection in rural communities, including:
- Universal Service Fund through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Connect America Fund through the FCC
- Healthcare Connect Fund Program through the Universal Service Administrative Co.
- Telecommunications grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, including the Broadband Grant Program and the Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees
- Community Connect Grants through the USDA
Resources to Learn More
Technical Issues - Connectivity and Security
Discusses efforts to improve connectivity and security to improve access to telehealth in rural Alaska.
Author(s): Spargo, G.
Organization(s): Telehealth Technology Assessment Center, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium