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Communicating for America Releases Study on High-Speed Internet Discrepancies in Relation to Health Care in Rural Communities

FERGUS FALLS, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

Survey shows lack of rural broadband access equates to lack of access to health insurance and necessary medical care

Communicating for America (CA), a rural advocacy organization, has released a new study that correlates the lack of high-speed internet to the lack of health insurance coverage and access to health care. The survey, conducted in September 2019, asked nearly 500 individuals whether having the ability to connect to broadband internet in their local area affected the way they engage with the health care system.

Of those surveyed, 39% in urban and semi-urban areas said they had high-speed internet. The number dropped to 21% in rural areas. The study’s findings went on to show people without high-speed internet were significantly less likely to have health insurance (61% had coverage) compared to individuals that have broadband internet (88%). A similar disparity was shown in health care systems. Of those without broadband internet, only 5% have used low-cost telemedicine for medical treatment, whereas 22% of individuals with high-speed internet have used telemedicine in the past. In addition:

  • People without access to broadband internet are significantly less likely to use online medical records (29%) than people who have broadband internet (59%).
  • People without access to broadband internet are significantly less likely to schedule appointments online (17%) than people who do have broadband internet (36%).

Demographics of the survey participants also told the story of who is being affected by the lack of broadband access. The percentage of broadband users was over 40% male. Yet those without high-speed internet access was nearly 70% female. Individuals without broadband access were also likely to not own a computer (only 48% do) compared to those who have access to high-speed broadband and own a personal computer (92%).

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), approximately 23 million Americans lack access to infrastructure capable of providing the minimum broadband speed of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Only 61 percent of rural residents meet this threshold. Mobile wireless interconnections in rural areas are generally not fast enough to meet the formal FCC definition of “broadband.”

“As more and more of our health care activities happen online, our main research question was, compared to people with high-speed, broadband internet, are those without broadband internet resources more likely to be uninsured? Are they less likely to use telemedicine? We found a gaping hole in access and equality,” said Patty Strickland, Chief Operating Officer of CA. “We continue to press Congress to expand broadband in rural areas where Americans are lacking care and services due to their inability to connect with technology that a majority of the nation takes for granted.”

Read the full analysis of the survey and review CA’s white paper on rural broadband issues.

About Communicating for America
Communicating for America, Inc. (CA) is a nationwide nonpartisan organization that represents about 100,000 small businesses, self-employed and agricultural members across America. Since 1972 CA has been working on small business, tax, healthcare and agricultural policy issues on behalf of its members. For more information visit www.communicatingforamerica.org.

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