From online shopping and banking, to video visits with family and friends, the internet has weaved its way into the fabric of daily living.
Along the way, entire industries have been upended, and the world of healthcare is undergoing a facelift as well. Remote monitoring devices and digital doctor visits connect patients with professionals while eliminating the commute, smart pill bottles tell seniors to take medications on time and activity trackers enable earlier diagnosis and intervention.
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Although some patients are already harnessing the capabilities of these types of new and emerging technologies enabled by high-speed internet, others are missing out. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 34 million people, or 10% of all Americans, still lack access to benchmark service. And some groups are particularly hard hit, including 39% of rural Americans and 41% of Americans on Tribal lands.
As part of the effort to overcome these coverage disparities, the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force has developed a Mapping Broadband Health in America platform that allows users to visualize health and broadband internet statistics at the county, state and national levels. The latest data update, announced in June, reinforces many of last year’s findings—including noticeable gaps between rural and urban areas.
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"By many measures, connected communities are simply healthier communities,” says Michele Ellison, JD, chair of the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force. For example, the least connected counties have 1.5 times as many preventable hospitalizations as other counties. “As the Task Force continues to conduct deep-dive analyses like these, we’re consistently finding that areas that need broadband for health the most tend to have it the least.”