The COVID-19 pandemic has caused telehealth to become a bigger economic development concern among local areas. That’s one of the key findings of new research by broadband industry analyst Craig Settles.
According to Settles’ Broadband, Local Economies, & the Age of Covid survey -- which polled 200 professionals from economic development departments within local and state governments and economic development agencies across the United States – 40% of respondents indicated that telehealth can have a “measurable impact” on their local economy in terms of attracting medical professionals and reducing unnecessary ER visits.
When the same survey was conducted two years ago (in 2019), only about 25% of respondents said the same about telehealth’s potential impact on the medical workforce and ER visits.
Moreover, more respondents this year said telehealth can help more mental health services remain local, as well as keep senior citizens living at home longer.
Settles says these findings suggest there is money to be made and saved by boosting telehealth capabilities. Specifically, he sees a lot of potential value in local telehealth radiology programs, citing the $1.8 million saved over 10 years by a radiology practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“There are serious dollars and cents to be had if you can do this locally, because people don’t have to go all the way to China to get their X-rays, all the various MRIs and so forth,” Settles said. “The forward-thinking communities, especially if they’re a rural area, I would look at starting a radiology practice because there’s money to be made there locally. Obviously, you can’t do this without broadband, but if you’re one of these cities building the network, that should be a main consideration for revenue.”