The Power of Broadband Networks for the Delivery of Health Care Services

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To an ever-increasing degree, the delivery of health care services requires an advanced communications component linking providers to their patients and other health care professionals, as well as to the outside world, such as National Institute of Health databases. Unfortunately, many of the communications links currently used by providers are antiquated and fail to serve the growing needs of the health care community.

Broadband technology has brought with it the capability of designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining communications networks that can address the specialized requirements of health care providers. One example is the Rural Healthcare Pilot Program initiated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which enabled providers to tap into the $400 million Universal Service Fund dedicated to health care communications. The FCC is proposing to convert the program into a permanent funding vehicle dubbed the Health Infrastructure Program.

Aside from government funds, alternative mechanisms exist that may allow health care providers to achieve the same end. For example, the Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network (RNHN) is constructing a network that will connect eight Critical Access Hospitals, as well as a regional medical center. To partially fund the construction, the RNHN pre-sold excess capacity on the network. These funds will not only enable the Nebraska participants to build a network, they will establish an income stream that should allow the network to be economically sustainable for years to come.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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