Rural populations need access to quality cardiology, but they might not be getting it.
Disparities in access to specialized care are a real issue in rural communities, for various reasons. Luckily, technological advancements in telecardiology are beginning to offer solutions and fill in the gap for these patients and practitioners.
Here’s why telecardiology services can literally save lives in rural communities.
What are Telemedicine and Telecardiology?
Telemedicine is an interactive, real-time communication between a patient and a medical specialist in a different location. Telemedicine might consist of a video consult between patient and doctor, or it may entail a patient’s general practitioner relaying information and collaborating with an off-site specialist.
Telecardiology is simply telemedicine that deals specifically in the treatment or diagnosis of heart diseases or abnormalities.
Specific Issues Facing Rural Hospitals
Rural clinics and hospitals face unique issues.
Declining populations in small towns mean rural hospitals have a hard time keeping their doors open. Low admissions mean low revenues, which in turn makes maintaining facilities and paying staff burdensome.
Rural areas tend to have a disproportionate number of elderly patients, which can put a strain on a hospital. They also frequently deal with a large number of uninsured patients and patients with chronic health conditions including heart disease and diabetes.
Add to this a tendency for un- or underinsured patients to rely on emergency services versus preventative care, and it becomes apparent why these clinics and hospitals are struggling to stay afloat.
How Telecardiology Services Can Help Rural Communities
There is a disparity in the access to care in rural communities, and telecardiology can help bridge the gap. Here’s how.
Every minute is crucial when a patient is having an acute heart problem. Quickly accessing a cardiologist can reduce critical door-to-balloon time in patients that present to their GP with symptoms of an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). By using telemedicine, the patient can be diagnosed with a STEMI before they even arrive at the hospital and the cardiac team can be ready to begin opening the blocked artery.
For chronic or ongoing heart issues, efficient and adept care is still vital. By using telecardiology, rural patients can access specialists sooner and with less stress than if they needed to arrange travel and appointments at a different facility.
Access to cardiologists via telemedicine can also reduce unnecessary testing or referrals and misdiagnoses. If an electrocardiogram can be administered locally and then immediately transmitted and assessed by a remote cardiologist, it can cut down on unnecessary treatment, save time, and improve patient outcomes.
Telecardiology equipment is also generally quite convenient. It can be moved through a hospital, used at multiple clinics in the area, or taken out into the community. It even offers practitioners the option to meet with patients in their own homes.
Learn More about the Benefits of Telecardiology
Telecardiology has far-reaching benefits, and rural hospitals are wise to tap into the new technologies at their fingertips. Telemedicine allows greater, less costly, and more convenient access to specialized care for everyone — even those who live hundreds of miles away from major metropolitan health systems.
Follow our blog or contact us to stay on top of news, tips, and information about how telemedicine and telecardiology services are making a change for the better in the healthcare world — in rural communities and beyond.