Internet users save big by seeking out health information online
Bowling Green, Kentucky (January 18, 2022) - Since we opened our doors more than 20 years ago, Connected Nation (CN) has focused both nationally and locally on the impact that broadband can have on peoples’ lives. It is not enough to work with others to lay the infrastructure and make broadband available to every home. We must also explore the many ways people use their broadband service and the benefits it provides them.
Broadband access is important, but it is not the end goal. Our focus is to help people understand the benefits of subscribing to broadband (high-speed internet) service and empowering them by improving their digital skills.
One way we work to accomplish this goal is through our efforts in the field of telehealth. Yes, making sure telehealth tools are available for every household is important, but our teams decided to find out just how much broadband helped households save money by providing a resource to live healthier lives.
We examined the issue in our latest telehealth report, “Bringing Health Care Home: Telehealth Trends in Rural Michigan.” As part of our investigation into attitudes toward telehealth and its applications, Connected Nation Michigan (CN Michigan), a statewide program of CN, measured how much households saved by using their home internet service for telehealth applications.
In the five Michigan counties surveyed (Dickinson, Gladwin, Osceola, Roscommon, and Sanilac), more than 1 in 3 households that subscribe to home internet service (35%, representing 29% of all households in the surveyed counties) said that accessing health care information online prevented trips to the doctor or medical center for members of their household over the course of the previous 12 months. On average, those internet-connected households said they had saved 4.04 trips to a health care provider thanks to their home internet connection.
To see the economic impact of this type of internet use for households, CN estimated how much cost savings these trips represent.
Medical visits can vary widely based on the location of the health care provider, the type of procedure, variances in the costs that insurance companies are willing to cover across different policies, and a multitude of other factors.
One nationally-recognized resource to estimate the cost of a given procedure comes from the ”Healthcare Bluebook,” a platform that evaluates allowed (or discounted) amounts from medical claims and prices across the country. Healthcare Bluebook uses its proprietary model to compensate for geographic differences, local health care provider access, and other factors to determine what they call a “Fair PriceTM.” Based on these calculations, this Fair Price is the amount Healthcare Bluebook deems that a consumer should reasonably expect to pay for a service from a health care provider.
This price varies based on services required, time spent in the health care facility, geography, and the level of specialization needed to perform those services. To come up with a conservative estimate for household savings resulting from internet research, CN Michigan calculated its savings using Healthcare Bluebook’s Fair PriceTM of $195 for each quick (15-minute) visit to a general practitioner for an established patient in the county seats of these five rural counties. Over the course of 12 months, the average internet-subscribing household surveyed saved an estimated $787.80.
In addition to the cost of the visits themselves, each of those appointments represents an investment of time and energy. People often must find babysitters, take time away from work, travel, sit in waiting rooms, and expend their time in myriad other ways. That time is valuable, and home internet access allows these individuals to bypass all those costs by seeking out reliable information online.
One study estimated that an average doctor’s visit takes about two hours including travel, waiting rooms, and the actual visit with the health care provider. Using Michigan’s 2020 median household hourly wage of $19.67, those two hours are worth $39.34 per visit, or $158.93 for slightly more than four visits in a year.
Altogether, this adds up to a total of $946.73 savings per year per internet-subscribing household that goes online for these types of services. Even if a household pays $71.98 per month for their home internet service, they would realize a net savings of $82.97 on average, just from using this one application.
CN will continue to work with communities to share the benefits of making broadband accessible to everyone. As technology advances, these benefits will only continue to grow. That is why we believe that Everyone Belongs in a Connected Nation.
You can review our latest telehealth study, which includes trends in telehealth usage, attitudes, and concerns across several rural Michigan communities here. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to ensure you don’t miss any of our newest research.
About the author (pictured right): Chris McGovern is Connected Nation’s Director of Research Development. In that role, Chris works with CN staff and external stakeholders to develop research deliverables and provide critical analysis.
He uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret data, formulate reports, and make substantiated recommendations based on research findings.
 This does not include households whose only internet service was via smartphone or similar mobile connection; when those households are included in the calculation, the average drop slightly to 4.02 trips saved.
 As reported on 01/10/2022. More information about Healthcare Bluebook’s “Fair Price” estimates can be found here: https://www.healthcarebluebook.com/ui/help#faqwhatisthefairprice
 The average price per month reported by all internet-subscribing households that have participated in Connected Nation’s Connected Communities surveys as of December 2021.