Lima: Bridging the digital divide will mean better healthcare

Over the past couple of years, many have recognized the need for connectivity, but there are still Floridians who don’t have or have limited access to the internet that most of us rely on daily. With health at the forefront of the push for digital connectivity, prioritizing the ability to provide telehealth options is essential to encourage consistent, quality care that enables providers to reach all patients, even those in rural areas without the same access as most Floridians.

Working in the medical field for over 20 years, I have seen the impacts that limited or no access to healthcare professionals can have on patients and families. While the growing number of providers offering telehealth has expanded during the pandemic, access to these sometimes life-saving options has not increased. People in our less populated communities have not had the same ability to maintain their health, even in the wake of a global health crisis.

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Fortunately, this access problem can be reduced by significant investments to improve the connectivity that is essential to the health and well-being of all Floridians, even those in rural areas. The US Bailout and Jobs Infrastructure Investment Act passed by Congress is bringing in significant amounts of taxpayers’ money in Florida. These funds can be spent by state and local governments on a variety of things, one of which is expanding and improving broadband access.

It may be hard to believe for people living in urban areas of our state, but there are still many who have no choice but to go without the ability to use the internet for virtual school. , remote work, online shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family. and telemedicine. During the pandemic, many Florida families have adapted to relying on access to telehealth as a safe and essential resource to receive ongoing care, but in some communities the digital divide has made this impossible.

We have a unique opportunity to urge our leaders to make intentional investments in securing broadband connections in impactful ways that will stand the test of time. As our reliance on the internet and connectivity grows, it is essential to allocate these funds to future-proof solutions such as fiber optic networks. Fiber is capable of symmetrical download and upload speeds, which is increasingly important as many have shifted their work and school lives to the home via the Internet. Fortunately, there are reliable and experienced providers capable of installing fiber networks that can first reach our rural communities.

By bridging the digital divide by using these funds to create future-proof internet solutions, we can provide the best healthcare options to all Floridians. Along with access to ongoing care, Florida is home to some of the brightest medical providers, and by securing connectivity for those in less populated areas, we can ensure they can count on access to the best state providers who can provide a range of care options to keep every Florida family healthy.

Clelia Lima, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, is the founder and CEO of FeelWell Telehealth.

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