Congressman Steven Horsford Examines Telehealth Challenges Amid COVID-19 at Rural and Underserved Health Task Force Roundtable

August 6, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-04), member of the bipartisan House Ways and Means Committee Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force, joined a virtual roundtable to examine the role of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

“For Nevadans in rural areas, telehealth is a necessity. Living miles away from a clinic or hospital has made it difficult to receive timely, affordable healthcare, especially during a public health crisis,” said Congressman Steven Horsford. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for safe, secure, and high-speed internet connection for telehealth services. As we continue to work towards economic recovery, we must ensure Congress invests in broadband infrastructure in Nevada’s rural communities and healthcare access in every corner of our state for years to come.” 

As policymakers contemplate the role of telehealth following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to see how this technology has the potential to impact the lives of individuals living in rural and urban underserved communities.. Accordingly, the  Task Force roundtable focused on the current policy landscape surrounding telehealth – both the foundation that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways it has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. The roundtable featured four experts in various aspects of health technology and telehealth. 

Congressman Horsford’s district includes areas of White Pine, Esmeralda, Nye, Mineral and Lincoln counties, and part of Lyon County. These rural areas comprise a large portion of Nevada’s fourth district and have long struggled with access to affordable, high-speed internet. 

The Congressman’s prepared remarks and line of questioning are available below: 

  • Thank you to our speakers today for sharing your time and expertise today, and thank you Chairwoman Sewell for leading this discussion.
  • Most of Nevada's rural and frontier communities are in sparsely populated counties that are considerable distances from the state's urban and tertiary care centers. (ie. Hospitals where patients can get treated for more complex medical and surgical interventions.)
  • The average distance between acute care hospitals (short term treatment hospitals) in rural Nevada and the next level of care is 118 miles and the average distance to the nearest incorporated town is 46.3 miles.
  • Telehealth ought to be an innovative solution for patients living in vast parts of the state, but we still have a long way to go on this issue.
  • For instance, according to a Nevada Broadband Task Force report, 65 percent of the rural population in the state lack access to broadband.
  • In Nevada, even with phone visits poor cell service and the lack of financial resources of patients hampers telehealth experiences.
  • Dr. Tibbels, I agree with your assessment that Congress must make robust investments in our infrastructure.
    • In the interim and during this pandemic, what are some of the creative solutions Teladoc has taken to deliver care in places where there currently are connectivity challenges?
    • How do you offer quality care if a call cuts out or a patient simply doesn’t have access to broadband? 
  • Ms. Myrick, I appreciated your testimony, the discussion around digital health literacy, and the effort to train peer supporters to assist an aging population in using technology.
    • Can you discuss the kind of skills training the digital Peer Supporters undergo for these positions?
    • How do these roles differ from other health professional jobs?
    • How do you foresee these kinds of digital literacy support playing a role in the pandemic and beyond?