The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an 800% increase in veterans’ telehealth sessions T-Mobile’s networks provide to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs since the COVID-19 crisis began, the carrier announced.
In December 2018, T-Mobile partnered with the VA to provide veterans with telehealth connectivity without using their data. That partnership, which made 70,000 lines of wireless services available, now is supporting almost 20,000 sessions daily.
“Not only is telehealth important and, for many, preferred right now with the COVID-19 crisis, but for millions of veterans living in rural America, it’s sometimes the only option for regular healthcare,” Mike Katz, T-Mobile Executive Vice President for Business, said in a press release. “T-Mobile’s nationwide service keeps veterans in rural communities connected to their doctors and has the bandwidth to support this huge surge in telehealth visits.”
T-Mobile says that a third of 9 million U.S. vets live in rural areas with average trips of 25 to 50 miles for medical care.
T-Mobile is not alone in putting the spotlight on telehealth. In late March, AT&T partnered with VitalCare to use the company’s platform to connect patients with hospitals and other healthcare facilities for free for 60 days.
The pandemic is boosting telehealth’s profile. The FCC’s Wireline Competition bureau is in the midst of handing out $300 million in funds made available through the CARES Act, which became law in March. Last week, for instance, the bureau approved 43 applications for a total of $16.87 million. To date, the FCC has awarded more than $50 million to 132 health care providers in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
The goals of telehealth and telework have long been lauded. Sometimes it takes a dramatic event for people to adopt something new, even if they acknowledged all along it is a good idea. This is what seems to have occurred with both telehealth and telework as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, Frost & Sullivan said that demand for telehealth will jump by 64.3% this year.