It sure seems like a hassle to schedule a doctor’s appointment. You have to take the morning off from work; figure out how to get the kids to school at the same time you’re supposed to be in the exam room; drive to the other side of town in morning rush hour traffic. Ugh. But hold on a second.
Imagine if you lived in a rural area, and instead of a 30-minute drive to the doctor, it took you four or more hours to travel to your appointment. Instead of a half-day off work, you would have to take the whole day off; think of the lost wages, and what you’d have to pay a child care provider, and the transportation costs. This is the unfortunate reality for the nearly 80 million Americans who live in rural areas, because though these rural dwellers make up a quarter of the country’s population, only 10 percent of the nation’s physicians live, and work nearby.
But technology has developed a solution; that solution is telemedicine.
Telemedicine is profoundly transforming the ways in which rural Americans receive care; how healthcare professionals provide that care; and in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, the ways in which standards of quality and efficiency are measured.
As the number of telemedical tools available on the market continues to grow, so do the benefits and advantages of a technology destined to most profoundly impact those living in rural America.
Telehealth means better care, and less expensive travel for patients. HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing solutions such as those offered by SecureVideo make it simple and easy for care providers to see and treat patients remotely, from their homes or into satellite offices. Instead of being forced to wait days or weeks for an appointment, care can be given almost immediately with less inconvenience.
Telehealth means patients can more easily access specialty medical services. While primary and specialty care is often difficult to access in lesser-populated communities, this is even more true for behavioral and mental health services. Telehealth and videoconferencing solutions increase crucial access to psychiatric care.
Telehealth builds community, where rural citizens can interact with their urban peers. Doctors help patients — it’s their job — but sometimes what a patient needs isn’t necessarily a health professional, but a curated session with others who are going through, or have gone through a similar situation. Telehealth technologies connect geographic communities and allow for easier dialogue without increasing costs to the healthcare provider.