The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called on the government to take action to improve broadband connectivity in regional and rural areas or risk health services in the bush falling further behind that available in cities. In a position statement released yesterday, the AMA said the use of telehealth and telemedicine services in these areas is patchy and isn\u2019t being used to its full potential \u201cbecause of no, or inadequate, internet access.\u201d The AMA cited the 2016 Regional Telecommunications Review, which said that the ability of hospitals and clinics to support remotely-located clinicians and patients via video conferencing and remote monitoring could be severely limited in areas serviced by satellite. These areas may not be able to consistently and reliability deliver the necessary capacity and technical capability, the report said. Rural doctors who responded to an AMA Rural Health Issues survey were critical of the quality of internet access in the bush. \u201cInternet services are a critical area [of concern]. The NBN has been deficient in providing a comprehensive coverage even in areas that are under 25km from a major regional centre, i.e. Orange and Dubbo,\u201d said one clinician. \u201cHigh speed broadband [is the] single most critical issue to run practices now, many areas are not getting the best from the NBN,\u201d said another. The AMA said as mainstream healthcare provision becomes increasingly technology-based and requires more and faster broadband services to operate, there is a \u201creal risk that regional, rural and remote areas of Australia will be left further behind in the ability to provide quality health services.\u201d It cited a Deloitte Access Economics report that suggested single older Australians could save $7,400 each year through broadband-enabled healthcare with savings to the government, through reduced health and service provision, of more than $14,500. The AMA also said high-speed broadband should be available to the same standard and at the same cost to all communities, businesses and services across the whole of Australia. \u201cThe platforms used must be able to accommodate future developments in information and communications technologies and provide connectivity through suitable combinations of fibre, mobile phone, wireless and satellite technologies,\u201d the AMA said. The association also asked the government to ensure broadband service are affordable to people in the bush. \u201cLack of affordability is regarded as one of the most important barriers to good internet access for country people whose incomes, on average, are 15 per cent than those of city people,\u201d the AMA said. The AMA urged the government to consider the recommendations of the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review, and establish a new funding mechanism \u2013 the Consumer Communication Fund \u2013 to replace the existing telecommunications industry levy. It wants the government to extend the boundaries of the NBN\u2019s fibre cable and fixed wireless footprints and mobile coverage wherever possible. It also wants measures developed to prioritise or optimise the broadband capacity available by satellite for hospitals and medical practices such as exempting or allocating higher data allowance quotas or providing a separate data allowance. The full list of AMA\u2019s requested actions can be found here.