For patients in rural areas, telemedicine can make a big difference by increasing access to health care and specialists—but only when the region’s high-speed Internet access works. Unlike swyMed, most telemedicine platforms need minimum connection speeds of 25 megabits per second for download and 3 megabits per second for upload. These rigorous telemedicine broadband requirements enable the software to display a smooth face-to-face encounter with a healthcare provider.
Typically, telemedicine requires stable high-speed internet connections to support both remote in-home monitoring of patients and real-time video streams between patients and healthcare providers. This eliminates some of the barriers to healthcare access for children, seniors, and people with disabilities by reducing or eliminating the travel requirements of an in-office visit while bringing down overall healthcare costs.
In general, urban settings enjoy readily available broadband service. However, rural and underserved regions often lack a dependable Internet connection; when the connection isn’t reliable, neither is the data. According to an August 2015 round-table discussion with more than 45 healthcare providers in Maine, this issue represents the largest gap in providing care to rural patients. In contrast, for the residents, obtaining a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for telemedicine is far easier.
Unfortunately, bringing broadband service to a rural area isn’t as simple as it sounds. In some cases, an Internet provider has a monopoly in the region and has no incentive to work quickly to establish high-speed Internet service. In other cases, the infrastructure does not yet support broadband speeds. And in areas where broadband Internet is available, rural health systems pay up to three times as much as their urban counterparts for the same service.
In the meantime, medical facilities and patients in rural parts of the country have three simple options: Wait for affordable broadband service, forego the use of telemedicine, or use a low-bandwidth telemedicine platform. SwyMed is made for situations such as these; it runs reliably on connection rates as low as 40 kilobits per second, or just one percent of other companies’ minimum required speeds. This makes swyMed ideal for deployment in these rural and underserved regions.
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