How Telehealth Brings Doctors to Rural Communities

lake in a rural area From wearable devices that help improve physical fitness to advances in procedures that are helping to save lives, improvements in technology continue to rapidly change the healthcare landscape. These new innovations are also making virtual healthcare more popular and practical than ever before. Telehealth options enable patients to receive more convenient long-distance care and also help doctors to treat more patients while staying better engaged with their current roster.

Particularly in rural communities, the benefits of telehealth services are largely improving doctors’ abilities to serve their patients better – a clientele often faced with the struggles of finding access to quality, up-to-date healthcare located close to home.

Since many doctors leave medical school with significant amounts of debt, and therefore seek higher-paying positions that tend to be located in larger cities, many rural communities are left with limited access to local healthcare due to a lack of practices. However, with the robust capabilities that telehealth technology provides, doctors are now better equipped to treat these underserved communities – and can do so without the need to relocate.

Related: Easily Enable Virtual Care & Telehealth Deployments

Using virtual visits for consultation and follow-up appointments allows doctors the ability to expand their treatment base to patients living outside of their own geographical borders. Patient care is no longer hindered just by clinic location or travel time; telehealth is widening the scope.

The ability to consult with specialty physicians regarding certain illnesses that otherwise would require thousands of dollars in plane tickets and other travel expenses is an especially important benefit of this widened scope and is opening the door for access to world-class care in America’s heartland.

While telehealth deployments can provide numerous benefits for rural communities, however, there is still room for improvement. Unique obstacles continue to plague rural telehealth implementation, including a lack of broadband connection in certain areas.

Currently about 7 percent of rural healthcare providers in the U.S. lack broadband access, and those who have it are said to pay about three times more than urban providers would, as reported by mHealth Intelligence last month.

Although the need for strong internet connectivity persists, many states and healthcare organizations are taking strides to address the issue and ensure the expansion of telehealth reaches these regions that often need it the most.

IBM Center for The Business of Government is one organization invested in improving healthcare in rural areas through satellite networking. In a recent report sponsored by IBM, Leonard R. Graziplene, president of the Center for Rural Resurgence, Inc., explains how satellite networking can improve telemedicine deployment saying, “through a satellite connection to a 24-hour emergency medical center in the U.S., doctors in the middle of the South Atlantic are now able to send and receive encrypted images and confer with specialists at any time.” With the adoption of comparable satellite connections, telehealth capabilities in rural regions may be more readily realized.

As telehealth continues to have a strong, positive impact on healthcare, one of its most significant advantages remains the ability to enable providers to better reach underserved, rural communities across the country – a feat arguably already underway.

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