AMA calls to expand internet access

The American Medical Association adopted a policy to bolster internet access across the country.

The policy, which the AMA's house of delegates passed Nov. 13 during its interim meeting, says the trade group will advocate for expanding broadband and wireless connectivity in underserved areas of the U.S. The AMA's vision is to build up internet access to "ensure equal access to digital health tools that require connectivity" — a goal shared by various government and industry groups in recent years.

Internet-assisted healthcare services might include telehealth visits, such as video conferences with physicians, among other digital health projects.

"Patients stand at the intersection of health and technology," said Gerald Harmon, MD, immediate past chair of the AMA's board of trustees. "Without broadband and wireless, patients in underserved areas will face even greater health challenges."

In July, the Federal Communications Commission revealed plans to establish a connected care pilot program, which would budget $100 million to fund projects providing telehealth services to low-income patients. This builds on the FCC's Rural Health Care Program, which supplies eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that support digital health projects.

On the industry side, Microsoft has partnered with various technology companies to expand broadband coverage in rural areas as part of its Airband Initiative, noting internet access holds implications for a range of industries, including healthcare. In particular, Microsoft has highlighted the role telehealth may play in addressing physician shortages in rural areas.

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