Posted: August 23, 2021
Rural communities often lack access to affordable and specialized healthcare. Their less populated location means there are fewer providers available to serve the community, and vast distances between them can be hard to traverse for patients with mobility issues. To compound the issue, even if a specialist is located near enough, rural patients tend to have fewer resources available to put toward travel and healthcare expenses.
According to the CDC, rural patients experience a higher mortality rate than urban patients from all five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. Not only does telehealth reduce the mortality rate in rural communities by expanding access to care, but it also improves the outcomes of those dealing with the long-term effects of some of these chronic illnesses.
Let’s explore some ways in which telehealth has broadened access to various types of medical care in rural communities, and how this technology is helping to reinforce connections between providers and their patients.
Telehealth technology like telemedicine kiosks or video conferencing software equips small rural hospitals and clinics with the means to provide specialized services locally, and at lower costs. Clinicians can meet with their patients in a virtual setting, interpreting locally collected vitals and making adjustments to care as needed. This reduces hospital admissions and stabilizes patients that are managing a chronic condition.
Primary care visits are frequently avoided in rural areas due to the associated cost and inconvenience, but a telehealth platform helps to alleviate these issues. Less formal video-based primary care visits are easier to attend more frequently which further promotes preventive health measures.
Elderly populations residing in long-term care facilities in rural areas benefit greatly from being able to visit with a range of specialists in the comfort of their rooms.
The isolation of small rural towns can also exacerbate a patient’s existing mental health issues. Many remote communities lack access to mental health services, but telehealth-assisted online therapy and counseling can offer them much-needed support.
Integrating telehealth into a rural school system’s healthcare infrastructure can greatly widen access to pediatric care for students, and also can act as a proof-of-concept to be adopted by the wider community once the benefits are experienced.
A trend of steady decline in the number of providers in rural communities has been evident for some time and it’s a problem that promises to persist due to many converging factors. It’s increasingly difficult to recruit staff with adequate credentials, and even harder to retain them when they see that the environment of a rural clinic is often understaffed and overworked.
Lost revenue from patient hesitation in seeking care is also putting many rural hospitals at risk of closing for good. Many of these closed hospitals are unlikely to be replaced, further widening the gap between these communities and the medical expertise they need.
There are numerous grant funding and reimbursement opportunities for telehealth in rural areas, as the service can fill in the gaps that are naturally created by operating in such a remote location. Telehealth improves the ability of these rural providers to cater to a broad range of specialized conditions for their patients and to render needed care locally without having to transfer patients to an urban hospital.
Let’s Talk Interactive is a telehealth services company eager to meet the remote healthcare needs of your community. Contact us today to get started.