Listening to many politicians and National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials, you’d think “broadband” is practically synonymous with “telehealth.” So let’s go with it! Make telehealth front and center, the marketing hook of your NTIA Broadband Equity Access Deployment and Digital Equity Act grant applications.
Do a medical needs assessment of NTIA’s eight populations (target markets): 1) low-income urban dwellers, 2) rural communities, 3) Native American communities 4) veterans, 5) seniors, 6) people with disabilities, 7) those for whom English is a second language, and 8) the incarcerated. Low-income Americans have high rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions compared to higher-income Americans.
How many people would we help with telehealth and how many people would go home with a computing device? A marketing win-win – attack the disease, attack the digital divide.
By the numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4 of 10 adults live with two or more chronic diseases. That’s 103.2 adult human beings. Imagine if we leveraged those $45 billions from NTIA, the thousands of all staff people, and the hosts of volunteers to treat, cure, or prevent chronic conditions?
In 2020, 1,603,844 new cancer cases were reported and 602,347 people died. About 695,000 people in the U.S. died from heart disease in 2021 and the disease costs us about $239.9 billion each year in 2018 and 2019. 37.3 million people have diabetes.
Many more millions suffer from and die from lung disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and kidney disease. What’s more, many these of chronic diseases are driven by unhealthy lifestyles – smoking, minimal physical activity, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol use.
Make sure the numbers include the dramatic disparities. For example, African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, but twice as many die from strokes (100,000) as all other ethnic groups combined. Studies have found that Black people between the ages of 45 and 54 die of strokes at a rate that’s 3 times greater than their White counterparts. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of stroke. About three out of four Hispanics are overweight.
Telehealth making a difference: Gilda Radner’s legacy
Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, part of the Cancer Support Community global non-profit network providing free social and emotional support for those impacted by cancer, offers telehealth to medically underserved Minnesota urban and rural residents. The club partnered with telehealth firm Equiva and ISP Infinti Mobile to enroll members in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, to sign them up for Internet access, and send them tablets preloaded with special content.
“CSC organizes the telehealth content in a way that makes sense for their constituents,” says Beth Strohbusch, head of marketing for Equiva. “Members learn about cancer treatment options, digital support groups, and free psychosocial services if members are having problems with depression.”
Strohbusch believes it’s not just hospitals and support groups pursuing broadband and telehealth. Healthcare organizations, nursing homes, and financial risk-bearing organizations are seeing telehealth as an opportunity to enhance connectivity with patients and improve organizations’ financial and chronic healthcare outcomes.
Jason Welch, Infiniti president, says, “Equiva has a reach we don’t have – the healthcare communities, the cancer support community, those in elder care, the larger healthcare organizations. Infiniti saw a natural, practical fit. The Equiva ACP Connect Program is a practical combination of services that are easily explained. Our customers understand accessing healthcare and related resources from their computers and is the data transport mechanism allowing them to do so.”
The eyes have it
Age-related macular degeneration affects the central part of the retina that allows you to see fine details clearly. AMD causes damage to the macula and results in blurring of your central vision. It is a leading cause of blindness among older Americans and is more common in individuals of European ancestry.
Ocutrx manufactures an augmented reality corrective devices that tackles AMD and doubles as patients’ cell phone with Wi Fi, 4G, and 5G capabilities. CEO Michael Freeman says, “We build circuit board in our headsets that enables them to do everything that cell phones do, control seven cameras, and creates the six degrees of freedom where patients can pose virtual objects out in front of their eyes.”
The user puts on the headset and continually does a field test in each eye. Software signals the device when the user can’t clearly see an object, which triggers the cameras that starts projecting real-time on the lens a live 60-frames/second video. Augmented reality moves pixels from the peripheral to the front of the user and within 13 milliseconds the user can see the object.
Ocutrx has a headset for patients with chronic disease. Patients and their doctor each has a headset and cell phone capabilities for talking real time over an encrypted network. This headset measures temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate and other readings. Freeman adds, “Its camera can be disconnected so you can show the doctor your arm or leg.” To treat ‘lazy eye’, AI in the headset let’s patients play a game virtually. It frosts the lens of the good eye and makes the lazy eye work harder and tracks how well the eyes work together when they’re doing the exercises.
The fruits of telehealth
Telehealth vender Fruit Street delivers digital therapeutics for addressing bad habits that have medical consequences. CEO Laurence Girard says, “digital therapeutics may be programs that deal with sleep, stress, and resiliency, others may focus on opiate addiction or general mental health.
One in three adults have prediabetes in which someone’s blood glucose (sugar) level is too high but not high enough yet for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Fruit Street’s Digital Diabetes Prevention Program combines group telehealth sessions, wearable devices, and dietary tracking in the vender’s mobile application. Besides lowering the risk to develop type 2 diabetes, the program can also lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, improve health overall, and help subscribers feel more energetic.
Consider nonprofits marketing core digital therapeutics within a community. Imagine teams of “Life Changers” whose main goal is to embed broadband, smart home, cloud, and telehealth infrastructure that keeps residents healthy while reducing asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic illnesses.
Craig Settles conducts needs analyses with community stakeholders who want broadband networks to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. He hosts the radio talk show Gigabit Nation, and is Director of Communities United for Broadband, a national grass roots effort to assist communities launching their networks. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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