Thanks to state of the art telemedicine platforms, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, as well as patient care has become more affordable, and more efficient than ever before. Telehealth employs information technology and telecommunication channels like web and mobile apps to deliver healthcare to patients instantly and remotely. As such, telemedicine has a wide potential of transforming healthcare for those who live in remote or inaccessible areas.
Telehealth is the future of medicine. In fact, according to Digital Authority Partners, it’s inarguably one of the 7 must-know healthcare technologies in 2019, alongside AI, Big Data and chatbots, just to name a few. The bigger question is, how can telehealth help patients in remote areas? Herein, we’ll walk you through 4 key ways telemedicine is transforming healthcare for patients in remote areas.
First Things First: Why Do Patients in Rural Areas Need Help?
Here’s the thing: healthcare facilities in rural areas are ailing. In fact, according to the National Rural Health Association, around 70 rural hospitals have closed shop since 2010 and 700 might be on the way to closure. There are myriads of reasons that may explain this. There’s a shortage of specialist healthcare professionals, medical equipment is underused, and rural populations are sparsely spread, with the elderly and the uninsured accounting for the biggest portion. All these downsides are a surefire recipe for disaster for rural hospitals.
Despite this, 12 million Americans still reside in rural areas, according to HealthCareWeekly’s Ultimate Guide to Telemedicine. That’s where telemedicine can come in handy and rescue struggling hospitals and patients in rural areas.
(1) Telemedicine Helps Solve Shortages of Providers
With over 6,000 designated rural areas in the United States, it’s not surprising that there’s a grave shortage of healthcare providers there. Given that there’s an expected shortage of 46,000-90,000 physicians by 2025, rural hospitals will feel the hardest pinch. What’s more, rural areas have approximately 68 primary care providers per a population of 100,000 people which is lagging behind 84 doctors/100,000 for urban communities.
Telehealth platforms can help rural patients get health care without having to leave the comfort of their homes. They can get prescriptions delivered to their local pharmacy, too. Even better, telemedicine platforms are staffed by a variety of healthcare providers who are available to help 24/7.
(2) Telemedicine Give Rural Patients Access to Specialty Services
When a patient in a rural area contracts an illness that calls for elaborate testing and monitoring over a long period, he or she might have to seek medical attention from a larger facility that offers more specialized services. That’s a double whammy hit to the patient.
Thankfully, telemedicine can come in especially useful here. For instance, it can connect rural patients and their hospitals with close urban healthcare facilities and their specialist services. This way, rural patients can retain their local hospitals and get more convenient and affordable specialized health care services.
In addition, prominent doctors and physicians have started talking publically in favor of telemedicine. For example, Simon Stertzer, the father of modern heart surgery recently mentioned how telemedicine has really help patients get the care they need, especially when they are not within reach of public hospitals or if they’re in a position where they cannot be transported to the hospital.
(3) Better Access to Mental Health, Behavioral Health and Related Care
Rural patients, especially veterans struggling with mental health issues like PTSD, often have trouble finding the right care. With more than 5 million veterans live in rural areas, telemedicine offers them a platform to seek proper diagnosis, care, support, and treatment.
(4) Telemedicine Devices provide Better and Improved for Seniors and Other Rural In-Home Care Patients
Best-in-breed telemedicine devices help monitor and improve care for in-home patients in rural areas. With a caregiver or RN regularly calibrating the devices, doctors and physicians can better monitor in-home patient vitals and provide improved diagnosis, treatment, and care plan.
Telemedicine has a greater potential of making rural patients’ lives better. It improves access, reduces the cost of healthcare, and opens new doors for rural patients to seek mental health care.