Growing Cost of Telemedicine, Telepathology, and Medical Data Transmissions Is a Budget-Buster in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s public services commission seeks limits on free bandwidth to rural non-profit hospitals

Rapid expansion in the use of telemedicine, telepathology, and similar digital data applications is creating an unexpected problem. The cost of the bandwidth required to support these services is growing at an equally fast pace!

In Oklahoma, the increased cost of supporting telemedicine services is busting the budget of the state’s decade-old Universal Service Fund (OKUSF). That is causing regulatory bodies and the Oklahoma state legislature to look for solutions to this growing problem. For example, The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), which regulates public service corporations in that state, is seeking to limit the amount of free bandwidth available to rural non-profit hospitals under existing state law.

Medical laboratory testing is contributing to the higher spending on telemedicine services by Oklahoma’s USF. Chris Herbison, who is a Public Utility Regulatory Analyst at the OCC, told Oklahoma lawmakers during a hearing on this issue that the change in the size of telemedicine files has been dramatic. There has been a significant increase in the size of both medical reports and clinical laboratory reports. Similarly, whereas it once was basic X-rays, now it is MRIs and other types imaging files. All of these larger data files require more broadband capacity. (more…)