June 17, 2020
This posting was originally posted on the CBRS Alliance blog. You can read the original post here.
As an individual who has walked this earth for more than half a century, I never completely understood why I physically need to go to the doctor to be told what I already know and to be prescribed what I know I need.
Sure, an annual physical or obvious ailment predicate that I am physically present. But there is nothing worse than sitting in a waiting room next to someone suffering from God-knows-what diseases so I can renew my asthma inhaler prescription just because my doctor hasn’t seen me in almost a year.
I suppose a long-term positive outcome of COVID-19 is the medical industry’s re-evaluation to allow more telemedicine. Fortunately, for some of you, there might be federal funds available to help you implement some of these capabilities.
The recent COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The goal is to help healthcare providers arrange connected-care services to patients in their homes or mobile locations in response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
A key objective for telehealth is to get the doctor and patient communicating remotely rather than face-to-face. This can be from a structured office, but could also be required in an emergency or ad hoc location. The actual communication needs to be of excellent quality and it must be highly secured. It also potentially needs the capability to be mobile to support a range of times and places.
This task could be more daunting than you might imagine, especially given the competition for spectrum and bandwidth in hospitals.
It is surprising to me that it took a pandemic to raise concerns for patient safety, or lack thereof, while sitting in a waiting room. While telehealth has been around for a number of years, the adoption on both the provider and patient sides has been lackluster at best. In many cases, it evolved to save the payer money, which didn’t result in the best experience for the patient.
It is important to note that while the convenience factor would be my top justification for telehealth, the need for quality, reliable medical care from my known providers, along with a reliable and secure method of communication, is paramount.
I have worked from home for the majority of my career, so my setup for remote working with business quality communications is more advanced than most. But that is only one side of the equation. The healthcare provider, especially if in a hospital, more than likely doesn’t have the space or connectivity for the highest quality remote diagnostic session. OnGo and private LTE networks on CBRS afford those institutions the best way to quickly allocate bandwidth that is both highly secure and highly reliable.
As RF Connect learned during its deployment at Memorial Health System Clinic in Springfield, IL, they were able to create a private network to support a temporary need for emergency patient care and built that solution in a single day with fewer nodes to manage than would be required for an enterprise Wi-Fi implementation. If you add the ability to provide voice over private LTE solutions that integrate with the hospital communication systems with a standard mobile phone that supports Band 48, then your caregivers truly have the greatest ability to deliver the best outcomes without having to carry a multitude of devices.
It is only a matter of time before private LTE is the preferred standard for business communications in hospitals given that it offers a more flexible, more secure and more reliable communications infrastructure.
Please check the FCC Questions Page (item 12) to see if your facility is eligible to participate for the funding dollars. Your facility will undoubtedly implement this solution in the future, so why not get a head start now with funds that can help get you there?
Additionally, if you’re interested in other healthcare use cases, be sure to watch the CBRS Alliance webinar that I had the honor of participating in here.