The appeal of living in rural areas is obvious, as are the health benefits. Lots of wide-open spaces, fresh air, and access to healthy food are just a few of the positives. That said, the downside can be access to healthcare.
Telemedicine promises to change all that for the better. It brings the doctor to you without either of you having to travel. But what other benefits can telemedicine bring to healthcare in rural areas?
Let’s take a deep dive into how telemedicine can take healthcare in rural areas to the next level.
Rural Healthcare: Current State of Play
While living in rural areas may bring some health benefits, access to healthcare in rural areas remains limited for many. This has lead to people living in rural areas being more likely than urban dwellers to die from the following diseases:
- Heart Disease
- Accidental injury
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
Telemedicine is part of the CDC’s initiative for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The aim of this initiative is to incorporate telemedicine to allow access to specialists for people who live far away from urban centers. As people age, their mobility and ability to drive may also become impaired. This puts them at even more of a disadvantage than younger people.
How Telemedicine Can Help
When considering how to improve healthcare in rural areas, there are at least 3 benefits to telemedicine. These benefits include diagnosis, management of chronic diseases, and disease prevention.
Diagnosis of Diseases
For a long time, there was skepticism over the role of telemedicine in disease diagnosis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Telemedicine is now front and center in keeping people healthy during the pandemic.
Of course, telemedicine cannot completely replace the need for in-office doctor’s visits. There will always be a need for physical examination, diagnostic tests, and other services you simply can’t get online.
However, for an initial consultation, telemedicine can be invaluable. It allows you to discuss your symptoms with a physician, who can then decide what further investigations, if any, are needed.
Traditionally, lack of access to healthcare in rural areas has led to late diagnosis of diseases. Telemedicine may encourage people in rural areas not to delay seeking medical treatment.
There are many conditions that can be diagnosed and treatment prescribed without the need for a physical checkup.
In the event of an emergency, such as a stroke, telemedicine can be a lifesaver. Prompt advice provided by telemedicine can make a huge difference to long-term outcomes.
Telemedicine can be a powerful tool in rural communities. It can bring disease prevention education into people’s homes.
Not only is there often a lack of access to healthcare in rural areas but there are also higher rates of unhealthy behavior. This includes higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption.
Tobacco cessation and alcohol counseling can be provided easily through telemedicine. Diabetes prevention education can also help people to make healthier choices and maintain a better level of health.
Management of Chronic Disease
The management of chronic diseases is one of the key areas in which telemedicine can positively impact healthcare in rural areas.
Currently, people living in rural areas may find it hard to access rehabilitation services after a stroke or heart attack. Telemedicine improves access to healthcare in rural areas. It brings these services right to the patient’s phone or computer.
Doctors and other clinicians are able to supervise and direct patients as they undertake exercises in their own homes. This allows specialists to provide ongoing support. This leads to better long-term outcomes for these rural dwellers.
In the case of cardiac rehab, home-based rehabilitation has been found to be just as effective as that delivered in facilities.
Another group of people who can benefit from telemedicine is those with epilepsy. Transportation can be a huge barrier for epilepsy sufferers in rural areas. Telemedicine allows these patients to stay in regular contact with their neurologist without the need to travel.
The Additional Benefits of Telemedicine for Rural Healthcare
There are many great telemedicine benefits that are of particular help to rural healthcare. But there are also many other general benefits that support healthcare in urban and rural areas.
Less Chance of Transmitting/Catching Diseases
For good reason, we are currently all on high alert and taking precautions to not catch communicable diseases. Even if we wear PPE, there are still risks in heading to the doctor’s office. By definition, that’s where sick people have to be.
Telemedicine completely removes the waiting room situation. No chance of having to wait for a long time with people who could possibly be infectious.
Accessing healthcare in urban and rural areas can be time-consuming. You have to go when the doctor is available, which may not fit with your schedule. You may have to take time off work or arrange childcare to cover this.
Telemedicine fits in with your lifestyle so much more easily. You can have your appointment wherever you are. Just find a private space to chat and you can connect with your doctor.
This makes it so much more practical than traditional healthcare. Also, in rural healthcare, this may literally save your hours of travel time and gas. It’s a win/win!
It is expensive to staff and run facilities that provide healthcare in rural areas. However, by giving rural communities access to healthcare providers in urban settings, it bridges the gap.
It is possible to access the following specialist services via telemedicine:
These are just a few of the services that patients can access. Telemedicine programs are expanding all the time to allow you more access to specialists.
Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare in Rural Areas
There is no reason for healthcare in rural areas to be second best anymore. We can support you whether you need a prompt diagnosis, health education, and counseling, or ongoing disease management.
At Specialist Direct, we provide telehealth solutions. Our areas of expertise include telecardiology, telepathology, and teleradiology. Our focus is on providing patients with the very best in clinical care.
Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer.