Telehealth and telemedicine gives patients the opportunity to receive quality care without leaving home. While this is a convenient solution for many patients, the technological capabilities required often keep these new health services out of reach for many rural Americans.
A broad term used to reference all remote healthcare services, telehealth care provides many advantages to both patients and providers. But the people who would benefit the most are often the ones lacking access.
What is Telehealth (or Telemedicine)?
Telehealth (also interchangeable called telemedicine) is a modern method for your doctor to provide care for you in a remote way. This means you don’t have to physically be in-person to see your doctor, they assist you from a distant location. Thus, telehealth is performed typically through means of internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. There are many benefits to telehealth and telemedicine services. Some ways telehealth services help patients including:
- Remote monitoring allows your doctor to do checkups on you while you’re in the comfort of your home, no waiting in line.
- Patient easily speaking with your doctor “live” through a phone call or video chat.
- You send and receive messages from your doctor using secure messaging or email for more timely responses.
Common Factors Burdening the Implementation of Telehealth in Rural Areas
There are various challenges that restrict access to healthcare for rural Americans, including the following:
- Geographic distance
- Lack of public transportation
- Healthcare provider shortages
- Poor internet connection
- Unemployment/low income limiting ability to pay
- Lack of health insurance
In fact, people living in rural areas are more likely to die prematurely than their urban counterparts from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and unintentional injury, according to the CDC.
Poor access to care puts these underserved communities at risk – and makes them ideal candidates for telehealth. Unfortunately, these same communities often suffer from a lack of stable internet connection.
Why is Telehealth Important to Rural Providers & Locals?
For patients living far from hospital and medical clinics – especially those with limited mobility or lack of transportation – telehealth is a potentially life-changing solution. Moreover, it provides convenient access to care from the comfort of home, eliminating the hassle of traveling as well as exposure to contagious patients.
It offers virtual visits for health information, delivers urgent care, supports medicare and is a positive impact among health care matters that can be handled remotely. It helps patients by decreasing long waiting room visits, organizes scheduled visits, encourages social distancing with video visiting, and can manage initial diagnoses and get patients authorized for prescription drugs by their doctor in a timely manner. The list goes on for how efficient this advancement can address many healthcare matters in comparison to traditional in person visits.
Telehealth also benefits healthcare providers. In addition to providing more revenue, it also improves workflow, reduces the number of no-shows and reduces overhead costs. This new health service can also help provide a sense of community for medical professionals who practice in isolated areas. It’s no wonder it’s taking off so fast within the healthcare industry.
Biden Administration Ready to Help Rural Areas’s Telehealth Accessibility
The Biden Administration pledges to increase access to telehealth services for the rural communities that need it most. In August 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services announces that it will allocate nearly $20 million to strengthening telehealth services. $4 million of that is reserved for bringing telehealth to patients in 11 underserved states. Another $4.3 will be used to train and support care providers in those communities. The federal government is in full support of this health care advancement. They are fighting to make sure accessibility is available to all those in need.
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