Community well-being depends on access to quality health care and medical services, fields that have been transformed by the application of digital technologies. Telemedicine, the provision of clinical healthcare conducted from a distant site using digital technologies, has become a widespread and growing practice: over 800,000 virtual consultations took place in 2015 and the Healthcare Trends Institute projects that this number will reach 7 million by 2018. A growing number of insurance companies now reimburse their clients for telemedicine services, and even Medicare has begun to cover some telemedicine costs.
As more and more health services and medical practices come to depend on digital technologies, access to the internet and the ability to use it effectively play an increasingly large role in individual and community health. Not only do doctors and medical technicians require sophisticated digital equipment and high speed, reliable connections to operate offices and clinics, but medical clerks, physicians assistants, and staff will be in ever-growing need of high speed connections and high level digital skills. The consumer must also become increasingly tech savvy in order to navigate medical information, make smart choices regarding healthcare, insurance, and medications, and access medical records or communicate with medical providers using online platforms. Broadband access and digital skills are even linked to improved preventive health care, further making digital inclusion a matter of critical health importance.
In New Mexico, the New Mexico Telehealth Alliance advocates for the expansion and improvement of telehealth and telemedicine services in the state, promoting “integrating Telehealth into our healthcare delivery system to provide all New Mexican communities timely access to competent, reliable and affordable healthcare.” They are currently working on increasing the use of high speed networks for tele health applications and looking at remote monitoring kiosks that could provide an easy and efficient way for physicians to measure patient indicators from remote settings.