Rural healthcare can be improved and expanded through the use of telehealth. This technology can help healthcare providers and organizations deliver and manage services in areas with limited access to healthcare. It can also help patients avoid certain issues, such as transportation problems, when traveling for specialty care. In addition, it can help improve the communication and monitoring abilities of the healthcare system.
During the pandemic, telehealth became more prevalent as providers and patients sought to reduce their in-person contact. Various policies and laws were temporarily changed to accommodate the increasing number of people using telehealth. These changes can be made permanent at the federal and state levels.
Besides providing clinical services, telehealth can also help patients with various administrative and educational functions. Although it’s commonly associated with videoconferencing, telehealth can be performed differently. Some of these include remote patient monitoring and the transmission of medical records.
This guide aims to help healthcare providers in rural America find the information they need about the various facets of telehealth and its applications. It also highlights the funding opportunities that are available for this technology.
Telehealth in Rural Communities
In 2012, a workshop organized by the National Academies discussed the role of telehealth in the evolution of the healthcare environment. It discussed how it could improve healthcare quality and reduce service costs.
Through telehealth, small rural clinics and hospitals can provide high-quality healthcare services at lower costs. This eliminates the need for patients to travel long distances to receive specialty care. It also allows healthcare providers to avoid transferring patients.
In 2020, a commentary published in the journal Rural Health discussed the potential of telehealth to improve access to healthcare for those who are medically underserved. It noted that although there are still various barriers to the technology’s adoption, such as the lack of broadband access, it is becoming more sustainable and useful for healthcare providers.
A survey was also conducted to evaluate patients’ experiences using telehealth during the pandemic. It analyzed the factors that affected their satisfaction with the technology and its services.
Through telehealth, healthcare providers can now provide various services to rural patients. These include behavioral health services, dermatology, neurology, obstetrics and oncology, and dentistry. In addition, it allows subspecialists and specialists to visit patients virtually.
Programs that support telehealth offer various methods to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare in rural areas. These include extending the reach of services, facilitating collaboration among providers, and addressing specific medical conditions.