How Fiber Gives New Life to Telehealth Capabilities in Critically Underserved Regions
Diagnosing and treating a medical illness is rarely as simple as just taking a pill, and when it comes to patients’ well-being, the stakes couldn’t be higher. For one county in Houston, Texas, a critical mission to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB) was jeopardized when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017. Since TB treatment is measured on a scale of months and not weeks, the widespread disruption brought on by the storm posed serious implications — not only would treatment be prolonged for patients, but medication-resistant strains of the sickness became a very real fear.
Luckily, years prior to the hurricane, the county’s public health department had invested in emerging technologies and vendors that could provide remote healthcare services, enabling county staff and healthcare providers to reach out to TB patients despite the extraordinary circumstances. In the end, 97 percent of Harris County’s TB patients were able to stay on their treatment plan throughout the ordeal.
The Magic of Telehealth
Harris County is just one success story brought about by the new wave of Telehealth and Telemedicine. As cutting-edge technologies and applications present a host of compelling use cases, healthcare and medicine have emerged as a vertical with huge potential to revolutionize the way vital treatment is delivered to patients across the world. Telehealth, which is characterized by any kind of remote healthcare services such as physical and mental wellness monitoring or video or audio diagnosis, addresses three critical considerations for patients: location, accessibility and convenience.
This kind of technology-based service is vital for providing life-sustaining services to rural areas and urban populations with healthcare shortages. There can be a significant shortage of some medical specialties in rural America, and Telehealth will play an important role in ensuring patients in rural communities can access the care they need. In addition, these applications provide easier, more immediate access to patients with chronic conditions that make mobility and transportation difficult, or who require long term care from the ease of their homes. Plus, this new approach delivers convenience in scheduling, particularly for younger generations who have already incorporated technology into many aspects of their day-to-day lives. On the provider side, Telemedicine can also reduce overhead on office spaces, since lack of physical patients means less space requirements, reduced administrative staff and less vulnerability to contagious pathogens.
However, even as Telehealth’s capabilities and benefits grow (the market size is projected to surpass $16.7 billion by 2025) and its dossier of success stories expands, much of the U.S. remains critically underserved.
The Challenge at Hand
For decades, every commercial building in the U.S. has had access to telephone service via copper wiring. While this widespread, ubiquitous deployment was costly, it was necessary to provide communications capability to businesses. In the modern day, the requirements have changed. In order to stay adequately connected, remain competitive and meet the dynamic and accelerating demands in the world of content, web presence and cloud services, fiber has become the necessary foundation. Communications service providers must again do a mass rollout to ensure that the playing field is as level as possible and that there is an equal opportunity for fundamental networking and internet access.
Keeping Connected, Staying Safe
When it comes to networking, healthcare has a specific set of requirements due to the sensitive and personal information that is managed, accessed and utilized every day. Not only do healthcare providers need a reliable and redundant network, they need a safe one as well. Creating and deploying a carefully curated fiber network with no major fault points that easily meets all the strict requirements involved is no easy feat, but it is becoming an imperative task as medicine moves into the future. Robust fiber infrastructure is the best way to provide reliable services to patients. As a result, choosing a capable network partner is one of the most important decisions healthcare entities can make today.
When looking for a provider, it’s critical to keep in mind the different components that facilitate success in healthcare networking. To start, reliable networks are built from carrier grade telecommunications equipment that has an extremely low failure rate due to redundant components including processors, control planes and power. Redundancy beyond a single network element in the form of diverse fiber connections between all Points Of Presence (POPs) creates a diverse physical network. Even in the event of a business disruption or failure, access to medical records and other vital information cannot be cut off, so these elements ensure that business continuity is a priority.
In terms of security and confidentiality, the concern grows when remote work comes into play. HIPAA enforces the protection and secure handling of protected health information, and this extends to Telehealth as well. Some healthcare providers choose to employ fully encrypted data transmission, using peer-to-peer secure network connections and choosing not to store or record video or audio transmissions between doctors and patients. At the end of the day, the key is to find a network provider that gives peace of mind with an end-to-end secure, reliable network and service approach that is compliant and checks every box.
Ensuring a Healthy Future
As the world grows increasingly digitized, it’s clear that telecommunications has the power to be a transformative force in rural communities. Telehealth in particular allows remote communities to remain competitive, strong and healthy while keeping individuals within the realm of their rural roots, especially the younger generations. However, ensuring that foundational networking capabilities are reaching underserved regions is paramount. When all industries have been affected by the Internet of Things (IoT) and constant connectivity, fiber internet is the ideal way to give everyone the power to succeed, and the right network partner holds the key to helping communities and patients stay on the leading edge of health.
To learn more about Bluebird Network and how it can serve the greater healthcare industry as it moves into the future, please click here.