To date, NRECA, the association representing the nation’s rural electric cooperatives, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), which represents health care providers and institutions in rural America, and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association have all been thinking about the importance of health care to rural citizens through our own lenses. While we all would acknowledge that access to health care is a key component for a rural community, we had not figured out a way to combine and intersect to further that goal—until yesterday.
Folks from NTCA, NRECA and NRHA all met yesterday, and we agreed that if you were to draw a Venn diagram, we would have a lot of areas and interests in common. So instead of us all shooting off in different directions as we try to address rural health care, telemedicine and support for rural facilities, we are more powerful working together, so that is what we are going to try to do.
NTCA had a committed team of folks, led by Josh Seidemann and including Jesse Ward, Tammie Logan and Kelly Wismer, with me at the meeting, as we all discussed how our efforts together might produce something more than just interesting conversation. I was really struck when NRHA shared that 673 rural hospitals are vulnerable to closure and their efforts on the federal front to promote legislation to save rural hospitals. When a rural hospital closes, the economy of a rural community erodes. How might broadband play a role in keeping essential services supported or even assist in the transition from tradition to telemedicine care? I think there are some really interesting places to take this partnership, and we’re willing to devote the time and energy to do just that.