3 ways the net neutrality repeal could affect healthcare

In a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission passed Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to scrap net neutrality rules, Obama-era regulations that prohibit broadband companies from prioritizing or blocking some content over others and prevent internet service providers from charging additional fees for select services, such as high-quality streaming.

Here are three implications the repeal of net neutrality could have on healthcare.

1. EHRs: These systems are increasingly moving toward cloud storage, and fast and reliable access to the data stored there is imperative for patient care, Mashable reports.

In July, the American Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter to Mr. Pai, claiming the repeal could hurt healthcare by allowing broadband providers to restrict the flow of health information.

"The internet forms the backbone on which the healthcare industry is building capabilities for health information exchange," AAFP wrote. "Lack of health information exchange is literally life-threatening. It is paramount for the health and well-being of U.S. citizens that no barriers be placed hindering the free and open appropriate exchange of health information."

2. Telehealth: Remote services require internet, and quality internet at that, to provide accurate care as these services are data heavy. Tasks like remotely analyzing x-rays or connecting rural patients to a physician in a distant city need a lot of bandwidth, according to Mashable.

However, Mr. Pai said his proposal has the potential to support access to telehealth. "One aspect of this proposal I think is worth highlighting here is the flexibility it would give for prioritizing services that could make meaningful differences in the delivery of healthcare," Mr. Pai said Nov. 30 during a speech on aging and technology in Washington, D.C. "By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization — such as latency-sensitive telemedicine."

3. Internet of things devices: A number of medical devices are connected to the internet, and as healthcare moves toward integrating personal fitness trackers, mobile health apps or other devices that enable patients to "bring your own data" to appointments, an internet environment that encourages the equal, free-flow of information may be helpful in this instance.

More articles on health IT:

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Cerner files protest form over U of Illinois Health's proposed IT upgrade\

FTC issues privacy warning over direct-to-consumer genetic tests

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