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Rural Facilities Still Not Using Telehealth, Court Decision on Amazon Liability, and Michigan Grant Program

Emily McPhie

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Nearly a quarter of rural Americans have used some form of telehealth service within the past few years, according to a recent NPR report conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

The most frequently used telehealth services include receiving diagnoses and treatments from health care professionals using email, text messaging, live video chat, or phone call. These services can be especially helpful for patients managing chronic conditions.

Most rural health facilities do not include telehealth services, meaning that patients living in remote areas would need to have their own broadband access in order to access these services.

Of the rural adults surveyed, 21 percent said that the lack of access to high-speed internet was a problem for their families, with 10 percent identifying that as a major problem.

“Even though most rural Americans have health insurance, about one-quarter say they lack adequate health care access, as they have not been able to get health care they needed at some point in the past few years,” said the report. “Hospital closures are also problematic for some rural Americans, as almost one in ten say hospitals in their local community have closed down in the past few years.”

Amazon subject to Section 230 liability for sales on platform

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Amazon could be sued for third-party sales on its platform. About half of all items sold on Amazon are from third-party companies, according to database firm Statista.

The ruling overturns the decision of a district court in Pennsylvania, which claimed that Amazon was protected from the actions of users on its platform by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Circuit Judge Jane Roth wrote in the majority decision that Amazon’s business model “enables third-party vendors to conceal themselves from the customer, leaving customers injured by defective products with no direct recourse to the third-party vendor.” The decision does not apply to other online marketplaces that operate differently.

Michigan unveils broadband grant program for unserved parts of state 

The state of Michigan is offering $20 million to internet service providers willing to expand broadband access to unserved parts of the state through the Connecting Michigan Communities grant program.

"Connecting all Michigan communities with broadband service is about leveling the playing field for every child and small business in the state,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Providers can apply for up to $5 million per grant and can apply for multiple projects. Priority will be given to applications projects that “demonstrate collaboration to achieve community investment and economic development goals of the area impacted.” All projects must be completed by September 2023.

(Photo of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by Cjh1452000 used with permission.)

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