Dealing with a medical condition can be one of life’s greatest challenges. But health problems are exacerbated further when patients don’t have access to consistent, quality care. Such is the case for roughly 65 million Americans living in healthcare deserts today.
What Are Healthcare Deserts?
Healthcare deserts are defined as locations in which a population is more than 60 minutes away from the closest acute-care hospital. And with 65 million Americans already living under these conditions, the issue is only expected to get more challenging as 100,000 doctors are due to leave the industry by 2025.
With these factors set for a collision course that could greatly impair the healthcare industry’s ability to provide the level of care needed for today’s patients, telehealth appears to be the answer to resolving this looming issue.
The Benefits of Telehealth Services in Rural Areas
By introducing telehealth services, patients will be empowered by gaining a direct line of communication with their medical team from the comfort of their own home. This proves particularly effective in cases where a specialist, not a primary care physician, is required.
This opinion was recently espoused by the Children’s Health Fund, which claims that 15 million American youths reside in areas with fewer than one health professional for every 3,500 residents. The group argued that both time and transportation are significant barriers for children in need of specialty care—even those with insurance. Those in poor, rural areas are even more at risk of receiving inadequate medical care. The introduction of telehealth services in rural areas would enable families to connect with doctors from around the country, including the types of specialists that generally flock to urban centers.
Who Could Benefit from Telehealth Services?
The introduction of telehealth services will ensure a higher quality of care for these 15 million children, but will the same impact be felt for an aging adult population?
The answer is a resounding yes. While children may be able to rely on their families to manage the logistics of getting to and from a doctor, an impaired adult may be on their own. Additionally, it is the Baby Boomer population driving a surge in demand for healthcare at either their own home or from within the comfortable confines of an assisted living facility.
Despite the numerous benefits of telehealth services, the aforementioned Children’s Health Fund whitepaper referred to several challenges that still act as implements to wider telehealth adoption:
· Legal and licensing barriers preventing telehealth from crossing state lines
· Lack of access to Internet or smart phones
· Inability of healthcare systems and small practices to afford telehealth technologies
· Lack of a system reimbursement for consulting specialists and primary care teams
· Quality assurance and regulatory concerns
However, though these challenges are very real, selecting the right telehealth services provider will be able to offer a comprehensive and systematic method for building a program that addresses these concerns while increasing your ability to improve patient outcomes simultaneously. Discover how an effective telehealth program can improve your healthcare organization, and benefit those in rural areas.