Should Healthcare Be Considered an Infrastructure Need?
With a new year, new Congress, and new presidential administration well underway, pundits and politicians alike continue to opine on what the future of healthcare should look like for the millions of Americans who continuously rank it among the top issues motivating them at the ballot box.
The aspirational and sometimes fantastical visions of healthcare’s future often leave little room for more substantive conversations about what tangible opportunities exist now. As my colleague shared previously, businesses and corporations now rank among the more trusted sectors of the American economy. As reluctant as the business sector may be to jump in head-first with policymakers and the media – both of which are now slipping even lower on the public trust scale – the opportunities for cross-sector collaboration among businesses on important public health issues are ripe for the taking.
One such opportunity is extending highspeed internet services to areas of the country still lacking adequate access or missing it altogether. Doing so will transform care for rural residents, seniors and underserved communities through the use of telehealth, wearable health technologies and connected devices. Reliable and accessible highspeed internet has the potential to make telehealth a more fully realized component of future care delivery in America.
While the health sector previously weighed-in supporting broadband internet expansion efforts, it missed an opportunity to communicate a vision of how greater access to internet services can also bolster access to healthcare and solve growing inequities.
Gaining the maximum benefits through the use of telehealth is only possible via reliable internet connectivity. Health corporations and associations, including device and wearable makers, need to lead a renewed effort to build the necessary infrastructure by which 21st century health services can be delivered.
The health sector has been conducting robust public affairs campaigns for years, many of them successful in expanding patient access to care. Yet, as we approach September, the deadline to reauthorize the nation’s infrastructure spending, is fast-approaching and offers another opportunity, albeit one of a different kind, for the healthcare sector to initiate a cross-sector public affairs campaign focused on achieving another win on behalf of patients.
By merging the ongoing efforts of the telecommunications and infrastructure sectors to expand broadband access with those of the health sector via an aggressive nationwide public affairs campaign, stakeholders have the potential to transform care for rural residents, seniors, and underserved communities. Doing so will yield tangible benefits for patients in communities lacking connectivity to their providers and/or devices which will help them manage and monitor their health between in-person visits.
While a public affairs campaign of this magnitude may seem as lofty a goal as comprehensive healthcare reform, the political conditions on Capitol Hill actually make a cross-sector, highly targeted campaign more achievable. Members of Congress, especially those serving on key committees of jurisdiction are emboldened when there is cross-sector consensus on legislation. Targeting members representing Healthcare Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs) is also key to communicating the urgency of seizing this opportunity and utilizing tools like Gretel to map the universe of key influencers will amplify the campaign’s key messages inside the beltway.
Some see narrow margins of party control in Congress as a major impediment to advancing important reforms from healthcare to infrastructure. But where they see stalemates, we see opportunity to bring together major sectors of the economy to expand access to broadband internet services. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to adapt and innovate, so too must public affairs efforts to take action on the opportunities narrowly missed in the last Congress – now is the time for this kind cross-sector collaboration to capitalize on growing public trust in the business community combined with a thirst for bipartisan legislative successes.