Da TOMER BEN-KIKI
The American people cannot afford a partisan policy that increases health care costs in the long run.
When the GOP came to the table with a $ 1 trillion infrastructure proposal last week, I was pleased to see that they had increased funding for broadband access to $ 68 billion.
The president wants $ 100 billion for broadband expansion, but a significant increase before the June 7 deadline was a positive step.
Aside from politics, the pandemic has made us realize how dependent we are on the issue of broadband Internet access. After all, broadband supports almost everything that has been done to keep the economy on the brink of life during the blockades.
Without access to broadband our ability to offer education, run most businesses, and (most importantly) provide health care, would have slowed at a freezing rate or – in some cases – stopped.
The fact that the healthcare industry has been able to make a pivot of lighting speed for telecare during the COVID epidemic shows the speed at which government, insurers and providers can respond to provide the necessary care. But, that pivot also exposed how social determinants of health, such as economic stability and the built environment, still present serious challenges for the delivery of care for our most vulnerable populations.
It should be lost on anyone, that the tremendous steps we have taken during the pandemic, both with telehealth and with other forms of mobile health care delivery, have not made sense to people without broadband access.
Today, the United States occupies the 27th place in the global Internet connection behind countries such as Iceland, Kuwait and Qatar. Without broadband, we will still leave too many Americans behind because of their limited access to health care through traditional channels.
If we go beyond the need for acute care and consider managing longer-term systemic problems, such as chronic illness and mental illness, the need for broadband access grows even more.
More than half of all adults diagnosed with mental illness do not receive treatment today, and we only have one mental health provider available for every 504 people, according to the 2020 Mental Health America Report (source). These are gaps that we can only fill with new innovative therapies delivered to people digitally via access to 5G broadband.
Over the past decade, companies from Amazon to Zoom have used broadband to provide transformative changes in every industry. Every industry, that is, except health.
Imagine a healthcare system that looks like Netflix – a challenging platform that teaches you what you like (or need) and gives you award-winning content (or care) in a format that best fits your lifestyle.
That Netflix model is one that companies like mine, and others, are pursuing to improve healthcare here in America and abroad. Imagine a front door to health care with that level of convention of joy, and ease.
These types of effective digital therapies exist today to address everything from mental illness to chronic illness. But, if we do not widen access to broadband, those most in need of these new, innovative treatments will be left behind.
A new broadband infrastructure creates the opportunity to provide these and other new forms of medicine in every corner of America.
I want to encourage this progress in bi-partisanship and infrastructure. Connecting more of us together will help us make people healthier and happier, and will help us lower health costs.
Tomer Ben-Kiki is Co-Founder and CEO of Happify Health.