By Rahul Varshneya, founder and president, Arkenea.
Rural communities, often located amid isolated yet beautiful landscapes, are a defining feature of much of the United States of America. But those same landscapes can, at times, make it arduous for people to gain access to something as basic as a healthcare facility.
In these regions, patients are often tens of hundreds of miles from the location of their nearest caregiver. Community hospitals, with limited budgets and low volumes, generally don’t have specialists. And even if they do, there are too few to ensure constant coverage.
Telehealth is transforming these situations to everyone’s advantage.
A recent study of Intermountain’s neonatal telehealth program evaluated the effect of video-assisted resuscitation on the transfer of newborns from eight community hospitals to newborn ICUs in Level 3 trauma centers. The service produced a 29.4% reduction in a newborn’s odds of being transferred, which corresponds annually to 67 fewer transfers — and estimated savings of $1.2 million for affected families.
By leveraging telehealth, patients can receive expert treatment locally without the added cost and risk of transfer to a bigger hospital. Local hospitals retain vital revenue and ameliorate their services. Community members get better care that’s based on evidence-based best practices. Health care is far better overall.
In this piece, we will be looking at a few ways telehealth is improving patient experiences and making care more accessible in remote regions of the United States.
1) Bringing Patients and Care Providers Closer for Better Outcomes
Most patients in the rural or suburban settings of the southwest, like the ones living in the remote terrains of Nevada, lack the necessary resources to travel to a healthcare facility.
Even for patients living in the urban areas, public transportation can be grueling and tedious. Less mobile or older patients might also not always have family or acquaintances who can be their caretaker and take them for frequent clinical visits.
Telemedicine can help such patients feel more independent. One study found that the use of a specific home-telemedicine strategy for care coordination improved functional independence in non-institutionalized veterans with chronic conditions.
Not only does telemedicine adoption help patients manage their conditions, it is equally beneficial for healthcare providers too.
Hospitals, clinics, public health offices and private practice healthcare providers in the southwest have been receiving free technical assistance for implementing or expanding their current telemedicine programs from various government authorities for quite some time now.
Since laws governing telehealth and reimbursement greatly differ by state, various Telehealth Research Centers (TRCs) spread across the country help providers discover the latest telemedicine and telehealth laws and regulations that apply in the state where the provider’s practice is based.
TRCs are also helping providers – generally free of charge – in developing a business model for telehealth in their healthcare setting, selecting the appropriate telemedicine platform as well as equipment, and providing education to patients alike on how to leverage telemedicine technologies to improve health outcomes and access to healthcare services.