Starks cited the advancement of telemedicine opportunities as one of his primary areas of focus if confirmed as an FCC commissioner. Starks’ testimony comes just days after the current FCC commissioners voted to increase the agency’s funding for its Rural Health Care Program, which provides discounts on telecommunication services to rural health providers. Based on his testimony, Starks, if confirmed, would add another strong advocate for the expansion of telemedicine services to the FCC. The Committee is expected to vote on Starks’ nomination in the coming weeks.
Starks believes that telemedicine can play a critical role in allowing patients in rural areas to access care that otherwise may not be available in their communities. Lack of access to affordable broadband, however, is a barrier for many patients who would otherwise benefit from telemedicine services. Starks indicated that he believes in order “for telemedicine to be a universal reality, citizens, and the health care providers that service them need access to affordable broadband connectivity wherever they live and serve.” He cited successful tele-trauma programs that enable physicians to provide remote examinations of emergency patients, as well as telemedicine programs that are being used to fight the opioid abuse epidemic as examples of how telemedicine can benefit patients living in rural communities.
Having Starks as another voice on the FCC advocating for expanded rural broadband services may help ensure the continued growth of rural telemedicine services.