The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, is poised to repeal net neutrality regulation, which currently requires internet service providers to allot the same bandwidth to all sites. In trying to demonstrate how this repeal would affect everyday consumers, most recent examples in the news include restricted access to streaming services, social media platforms or even your favorite search engines.
Less attention has been paid to the potential negative impact repeal of net neutrality could have on healthcare services: As outlined in this recent BenefitsPro article, access to telemedicine services could be at risk, particularly for individuals living in rural areas. We’ve written previously on this blog on the rise of telemedicine services (now offered by 71% of large employers), applications for behavioral health and how some community hospitals have launched their own telemedicine services. Telemedicine services have been a rapidly growing field, but the end of net neutrality could hamper its progress with slower speeds, lower bandwidth or higher costs incurred in order to access the internet. Telemedicine is all about making access to healthcare services cheaper, more convenient and independent of geographic location; some fear this regulatory change would erode all three advantages. Certainly, if and when the FCC begins to implement changes, employers will need to consider how to address potential barriers to telehealth program access.