By Jeff Brueggeman, AT&T Vice President of Public Policy and Deputy Chief Privacy Officer

A recent AT&T television spot shows a video diagnosis between a patient in an ambulance and an emergency room doctor over a mobile tablet device.  It’s a powerful example of how broadband technology enables cutting-edge health care solutions.  After participating in a recent seminar on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Institute for e-Health Policy, I walked away further convinced that continued broadband build out, including the expanded next-generation mobile broadband network that will be enabled by the AT&T and T-Mobile combination, will promote e-Health initiatives nationwide.

One of the key takeaways from this seminar is the trend of e-Health toward mobile devices, which enable medical information to be shared quickly and securely.  The challenge is to provide customers with a full range of high quality e-Health offerings.  Not only do customers desire High-Definition video conferencing with doctors, but they also want low-cost, ubiquitous, mobile services, like apps that help monitor and control chronic conditions and wireless-enabled devices to remotely monitor patient biometrics in the home and on-the-go.  AT&T’s challenge is building an intelligent and secure broadband network that meets all of these needs. 

The speakers at this briefing also agreed that virtual care is of great importance to e-Health providers and patients, especially among those who are elderly, infirm or living in rural areas without ready access to high quality medical care.  While virtual care improves the quality of a patient’s life, it also saves money and time.

The simple fact is that these life-altering e-Health initiatives, from mobile-enabled chronic disease monitoring to video conferencing, will not continue to advance at their current rate without widespread mobile broadband coverage, increased spectrum to accommodate exploding network utilization, increased investment in broadband deployment across the country, plus the flexibility on the part of the service providers to manage many different types of services on the network.  We must also never forget that it is our duty to figure out ways to connect seniors and low income communities to these vital and life-saving networks.

AT&T is taking steps to address each of these issues in a multitude of ways.  For example, the AT&T-T-Mobile merger will enable AT&T to deploy advanced 4G LTE coverage to 55 million more Americans than it would have otherwise.  This means that more than 97% of people across the United States will gain access to 4G LTE and the multitude of advanced e-Health offerings that it will enable.

As the Institute for e-Health Policy seminar demonstrated, the potential for e-Health is real, and AT&T is already building the nationwide broadband network to enable the next generation of health care services.  Innovation in e-Health can become a reality for all Americans, but only if policymakers provide the incentives and ability for broadband service providers to pave the way.

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