Senator John Thune (R-SD) Chairman of the “Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet” https://www.commerce.senate.gov held a field hearing titled “Transforming Rural America in a New Era of Innovation” examining the need to bring high speed broadband reliable services to rural areas.
Dr. Jose-Marie Griffiths, President, Dakota State University https://dsu.edu in Madison, South Dakota, testified on the power and the need for broadband connectivity and cyber protection especially in rural communities. She pointed out that sometimes 911 systems are hacked and taken off line. Presently, only 11 states and the District of Columbia have cyber protection programs in place for their 911 systems.
Dr. Griffiths reports that Dakota State University along with Madison and Lake County in South Dakota are making sure that their broadband connectivity is reliable, fast, secure, and providing adequate capacity broadband internet service and cell phone service. The goal is also to keep technology services at sustainable costs and retain a highly skilled technology workforce.
She discussed several facts related to healthcare in areas without adequate broadband:
- In communities where 60 percent of households lack access to broadband, obesity prevalence is 25 percent higher and diabetes prevalence is 35 percent higher
- All of the rural population with poor connectivity have significantly higher rates of individuals in poor health and preventable hospitalizations
- In areas without connectivity linking doctors, social services, pharmacies, caregivers, and others, healthcare is significantly more expensive, than in areas where connectivity streamlines medical processes
- Rural broadband is often dependent on one provider which means there isn’t competition so as a result, rate setting can go as high as the market will bear.
- The thinking is that telemedicine could potentially deliver more than $6 billion a year in healthcare savings to U.S companies especially in rural areas
- The FCC estimates that EHRs and remote monitoring technology could create over $700 billion in net savings over 15-25 years
- Educating more workforce training programs in the health IT field is essential. HealthPOINT https://healthpoint.dsu.edu affiliated with Dakota State University offers many health IT programs in addition to workforce training programs
Dr. Griffiths pointed out, “Rural communities today are being left behind attempting to access 21st century electronic resources with 20th century technology. According to a 2016 study done by Deloitte for Facebook, “Every day that one person is not connected to the internet, America loses $2.16 of potential economic activity. If we could solve the rural/urban digital divide, we could possibly add $83 million a day to the U.S economy or $300 billion a year.”