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How Telemedicine is Transforming Treatment in Rural Communities

Understanding the importance of telemedicine can transform the healthcare sector forever, but this isn’t just a result of the coronavirus.


The novel coronavirus situation has made traveling not only difficult but also dangerous. During the pandemic, the importance of telemedicine has become more evident than ever. The government has chosen it as the first line of defense since it provides a secure platform for physicians to give immediate remote care to patients without coming in contact with the disease or anyone affected by it. All that said, it may seem that the use of telemedicine is only coming into play during this era of COVID-19, but interestingly, it has been around for a while. 

Although it is peaking in expansion now, telemedicine started developing half a century ago, and not just as far as video calling an out of town patient. Government bodies and private organizations had been investing in telemedicine to extend healthcare access to rural areas and particularly to astronauts. 

The medical community was well on the way to expanding the limits of medicine in the 1950s and 60s. Radio technology and low-quality videos made their debut for treatment to patients in areas that were inaccessible or too far away in the United States. Telemedicine was introduced in rural areas initially only as pilot projects initiated by universities that became so beneficial that rural health clinics picked them up. Patients without the right technology to support telemedicine could simply go to those clinics, consult their desired physicians, and use the equipment present in those clinics. The rural health clinics were small and could cater to a large range of medical specialists, saving the patients trips to larger areas and also providing immediate and effective care.

But that is of the past.

Telemedicine has become an essential part of the healthcare system in rural areas. Since most of the United States’ population lives in areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals, the benefits e-health has provided has made it imperative. [1] Telemedicine practice continues to provide more patients access to professional healthcare. Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, conducted research that reported that 84% of American adults now use the internet, and 78% of citizens in rural areas have some form of internet access. However, people who live in the rural parts of the United States are still more likely to die prematurely of the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. [2]

Telehealth for rural patients has proven to be the best option for doctors to monitor their patients’ chronic conditions concerning the heart and lungs. Better monitoring can reduce hospital readmissions, deaths from chronic disease, and improve patients’ quality of life. Telemedicine also provides professional care in situations like strokes that require immediate action. The advantages of telehealth in rural areas is an indicator that implementing telemedicine in rural hospitals is the solution to most of the problems faced there.

Lack of Specialized Consultation in Rural Areas

Patients with chronic diseases require frequent consultation and monitoring. The lack of specialized physicians results in a lot of time and money spent traveling to hospitals in metropolitan areas. Rural hospitals have ample options that can help provide solutions to patients with specialized needs.

These include:

  • Remote specialist consultations
  • Outsourced diagnostic analysis 
  • Remote consultations
  • Direct-to-consumer telemedicine

All telemedicine consultations save the patient and the physician’s time, leaving room for more appointments with other patients who also require in-person care. [3]

Reducing Readmissions

Preventive care is the biggest factor in reducing readmissions. Telehealth for rural patients allows them to check in with physicians for follow-ups without unscheduled medical care. This limits situations from advancing into more serious conditions.

Aftercare at home is also difficult to manage for patients. HIPAA compliant consultation with platforms like SmartClinix helps nurses and physicians check-in on discharged patients to follow up on their aftercare, preventing an eventual trip back to the hospital or a flaring up of disease symptoms.

Reach the remote and underserved

Residents who have worked and lived in rural areas their entire life have to commute greatly to reach specialized care and often are unable to get immediate care in severe situations. Those in underserved areas mostly do not have a reliable source of transportation that limits their clinical exposure greatly. Seeing physicians remotely at home can benefit people living in rural areas, also resulting in a high patient satisfaction index. [4]

Telemedicine providers have helped hospitals and clinics in rural areas in moving forward. Providing underserved and chronically ill patients a reliable source of care is the task telemedicine has taken in stride. If you are considering telemedicine, or would like to provide expert consultations online without the hassle and risks of physical patient visits, SmartClinix can serve as an ideal forum where complete customized telemedicine solutions are available for all kinds of medical practices.

1-https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/telehealth-in-rural-communities.htm

2-https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/how-telemedicine-is-transforming-treatment-in-rural-communities.html

3-https://www.wrvo.org/post/telemedicine-connecting-rural-patients-urban-specialists?fbclid=IwAR2daokSCmB4cyQDgujPgXGnVhh24f-5EglPAD1LmTRLMbtH-xNeooOIhyQ

4-https://www.healthit.gov/faq/why-telehealth-important-rural-provide

 

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