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Telehealth is changing the way underserved communities in rural areas receive medical care by delivering health care through technology like computers and mobile phones. It helps diminish the barriers to care for people who live too far from specialists, people with limited mobility, or people who don’t have access to transportation. Telehealth can help doctors monitor patients’ chronic conditions, such as lung disease or heart disease, which can help improve their quality of life and reduce the need for hospital stays and reduce potential deaths from those conditions. Let’s take a look at the impact of telehealth in rural areas or medically underserved communities.

What Is a Medically Underserved Community

According to the CDC, people living in rural areas of the US are more likely to die prematurely than urban residents from diseases like stroke, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, heart disease, and unintentional injury. That’s because, in these areas, there’s less access to medical services that help patients receive the care they need without leaving the comfort of their homes. Underserved areas are populations designated by HRSA as the ones in which there are high infant mortality rates, too few primary care providers, highly elderly, or high poverty areas. They’re also defined as areas in which there are shortages of primary care, mental health, or dental health providers.

Why Rural Communities Benefit from Telehealth Alternatives

Remote areas are more at risk than urban areas because, as mentioned above, remote areas have fewer healthcare providers than in urban areas. The urban population is considered more well off than the rural population and people in rural areas are more likely to engage in risky health-related behaviors, which leads to higher rates of chronic conditions. People in rural areas have limited access to medical care because there are typically fewer healthcare providers available.

Rural communities can benefit from both telehealth and telehealth alternatives, such as telemedicine. Telemedicine essentially involves the use of electronic communication and software that provides clinical services to patients without the need for an in-person visit. Telehealth involves a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. But telemedicine can benefit rural communities by providing the technology necessary for follow-up visits, medication management, and several clinical services that are offered remotely by audio and video connections.

Key Benefits of Telehealth in Rural Areas

Using telehealth services can benefit rural areas in a number of ways, including home monitoring that helps engage patients from home between medical visits, long term care that provides specialized care to elderly populations who live in long-term care facilities, remote counseling and online therapy, and intensive care units (ICUs) that offer around-the-clock critical care patient monitoring by critical care nurses and subspecialists. With access to telehealth services, patients won’t have exposure to other potentially contagious patients, experience less time away from work, enjoy less interference with child or eldercare responsibilities, and more privacy. Patients also have access to outsourced diagnostic analyses, virtual networks with peers, term-based care, continuing education and training, and access to other specialists and subspecialists in real-time.

Why Telehealth is Important for Rural Providers

Telehealth is important for rural providers because it can offer increased practice revenue and it improves clinical workflows and increases practice efficiency. Not to mention, telehealth can reduce practice overhead, cuts down on patient costs, reduces patient no-shows, and improves healthcare quality. It also helps providers expand access to care and reach more patients, as well as improve patient engagement using remote monitoring. Telehealth can also reduce the feelings of isolation that doctors might feel when they practice in smaller towns, as well as the ability to offer timely care, improved patient outcomes, comfort, and local lab and pharmacy profits.

As you can see, telehealth has had a positive impact in rural areas over the last decade and continues to change the face of medicine by offering new ways to provide top-quality patient care in underserved medical communities. It benefits patients by offering quality patient care in areas where there’s less access to primary care physicians as well as access to specialists. Vidyo’s telehealth system is a top video conferencing service, on-premises solutions and platform-as-a-service for market leaders and innovative upstarts.

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