The US Federal Communication Commission’s reversal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations sets the stage for broadband internet service providers (ISPs) to slow or block certain content from reaching their customer’s screens. This is likely to have a significant and potentially negative impact on a healthcare system poised to go fully virtual in the coming years.
Healthcare consumers already depend heavily on internet search results for advice when making healthcare purchases. Coupling preferred content with existing search engine optimization strategies will undoubtably steer consumer behavior. What will be the result? The American healthcare market is unique, both in its expense (higher than any other nation), and its shocking lack of value. Some of this is due to misinformed consumers swayed by direct-to-consumer marketing. Arguably, repealing net neutrality may amplify the problem.
Even more troubling is the prospect of an ISP partnering with a health delivery system. Telehealth – the use of electronic communication technology for healthcare delivery – will become standard of care in the coming years. National telehealth have already managed to get a foothold in today’s highly competitive healthcare market, supplying a disruptive and potentially cost-containing force in the healthcare market. With the elimination of net neutrality, larger, more well-established healthcare delivery systems, seeking to defend or expand their marketshare, can now partner with ISPs to preserve internet “fast lanes” for realtime video doctor’s visits. Smaller, possibly disruptive companies, unable to make these same financial commitment to ISPs, may be marginalized or lost.