Connection Is Healthcare

By | June 22, 2021

By TOMER BEN-KIKI

The American people can’t afford partisan politics that increase long-term healthcare costs.

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 meaningful increase before the soft deadline of June 7 was a positive step.

Politics aside, the pandemic made it clear how dependent we are on the issue of broadband internet access.after all, broadband underpinned nearly everything that was done to keep the economy on life-support during the lock-downs.

Without broadband access our ability to deliver education, run most businesses, and (most importantly) deliver healthcare, would have slowed to a glacial pace or – in some cases – ground to a halt.

The fact that the healthcare industry was able to make a lighting-speed pivot to telehealth during the COVID epidemic shows how quickly the government, insurers and providers can respond to deliver needed care. But, that pivot also exposed how social determinants of health, like economic stability and the built environment, still present serious challenges to care delivery for our most vulnerable populations.

It should be lost on no one, that the tremendous strides we made during the pandemic, both with telehealth and other forms of mobile healthcare delivery, were meaningless to people without broadband access.

Today, the United States currently ranks 27th in global internet connectivity behind countries like Iceland, Kuwait, and Qatar. Without expanded broadband, we will still leave too many Americans behind due to their limited access to medical care through traditional channels.

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If we go beyond the need for acute care and consider the management of longer-term systemic problems, like chronic diseases and mental illness, the need for broadband access grows even wider. 

More than half of all adults with a diagnosis of mental illness receive no treatment today, and we only have one mental health provider available for every 504 people, according to Mental Health America’s 2020 Report (source). These are gaps we can only fill with innovative new therapeutics delivered to people digitally via access to 5G broadband.

In the last decade, companies from Amazon to Zoom have used broadband to deliver transformative change in every industry.  Every industry, that is, except healthcare.

Imagine a healthcare system that looks like Netflix – an engaging platform that learns 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 the one that companies like mine, and others, are pursuing in order to improve healthcare here in America, and abroad.  Imagine a front-door to healthcare with that level of joyful convenience, and ease.

These types of effective digital therapeutics exist today to address everything from mental illness to chronic disease. But, if we don’t expand access to broadband, those most in need of these new, innovative treatments, will be left behind.

A new broadband infrastructure creates the opportunity to deliver these and other new forms of medicine to every corner of America.

I want to encourage this progress on bi-partisanship and infrastructure. Connecting more of us together will help us make people healthier and happier, and help us lower healthcare costs. 

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Tomer Ben-Kiki is Co-Founder and CEO of Happify Health.

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