With Net Neutrality freshly repealed, the true consequences have yet to be seen. But, one thing is clear: without neutrality, healthcare will be affected, and very possibly in a negative way.
Net neutrality prohibits broadband companies from prioritizing or blocking some content in favor of others and kept internet service providers (ISPs) from charging additional fees for certain services.
How Healthcare Uses the Internet
There are several areas where the repeal could affect healthcare.
- Telehealth – The internet makes remote communication between healthcare professionals and patients as well as with others health professionals possible.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) – Cloud storage is becoming more and more important with EHR systems, which require fast and reliable access to data pertinent to patient care.
- Mobile fitness devices – Healthcare and consumers alike have been moving forward quickly to adapt the use of mobile medical devices and applications. With apps, patients can track fitness activities and share with their physicians.
How Healthcare Can Be Impacted
Allowing telecommunication and internet companies to throttle or slow down the internet where desired and charge more for select services might have tough consequences:
- The internet could become slower
- ISPs can create slow and fast lanes and charge content providers for higher services that have been standard
- Smaller content providers may not be able to compete with larger ones
- Costs are likely to be passed on to consumers
It is speculated that all of these events could negatively impact healthcare and hinder innovation.
- Internet speed is troubling because many patients and remote healthcare providers in rural areas may have to use slower internet speeds, and telemedicine requires faster speeds.
- There are fears that patient medical information privacy might be jeopardized. Opponents of the repeal state that net neutrality protects privacy and that without it, privacy may be eroded.
- Small medical and health practices might not be able to compete. If they’re budgets are already tight and they can’t afford to absorb the cost of a fast internet, they will lose the ability to use telemedicine.
Although many professionals, experts and consumers are concerned about the negative impacts of the net neutrality repeal, supporters of the repeal believe that it will improve the internet. Ultimately, time will tell. For more information about how technology is changing healthcare read our article, The Future is Here: New Technologies in Health Care.