One of the issues brought to the forefront by the pandemic is that the USA infrastructure for reliable broadband is limited especially in rural areas. This may not have been a significant issue pre-pandemic because many of our activities were completed in person. However, today that has all changed due to healthcare safety concerns that require us to work, learn, get essential deliveries, and access medical and mental health care remotely.
This dependency on remote/virtual services has the federal government taking notice. A bi-partisan bill, ACCESS the Internet Act, introduced earlier this month by Senators Joe Manchin(D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX), proposes to designate $400 million to restart the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program and give the VA $100 million to boost telehealth access for rural and remote veterans. (Wicklund, 2020)
This is welcome news, as tele-behavioral and tele-medicine virtual access can make a difference in life and death situations, whether it is medical/physical health or mental health issues. Secure professional virtual therapy sessions help to decrease stress related emotional issues that are heightened due to the trauma of the pandemic and related issues. According to a study in Telemedicine Journal and e-Health, there is substantial empirical evidence for supporting the use of telemedicine interventions in patients with mental disorders. (Rashid L. Bashshur, 2015)
It is important to support the ACCESS the Internet Act so that reliable broadband can be expanded to all the United States to provide improved access to virtual services. This will help significantly improve the infrastructure and access to HIPAA compliant secure virtual healthcare services to those in need.
Martha Ireland PhD, RN, CS, CEDS-S, BC-TMH
Rashid L. Bashshur, P. a. (2015, February 1). Telemedicine Journal and E-Health. Retrieved from NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744872/
Wicklund, E. (2020, August 10). Telehealth News. Retrieved from mHealth Intelligence: https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/new-telehealth-bill-seeks-funding-for-broadband-expansion-programs