What do you do when the symptoms of your illness make it difficult to see the doctor responsible for treating your condition in the first place? This is the challenging question plaguing many long-time sufferers of chronic illnesses living in rural areas and other locations far from their physicians.

These geographies without consistent access to healthcare are dubbed healthcare deserts. And according to research released last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges, roughly 65 million Americans may be living in one of these locations.

This is particularly troublesome, due to the recent rise in chronic conditions which demand continual maintenance and treatment. The CDC reports that 7 in 10 deaths every year are attributed to chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Telemedicine in Rural Areas Leads to Quality Care for Patients

So how can we improve patient outcomes for this large percentage of Americans without access to the care they desperately need? According to researchers from the University of Rochester, the answer may be telemedicine.

In a recent study published in Neurology, university researchers from the school’s Medical Center discovered that telemedicine services can now successfully deliver quality care for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other similar conditions. These findings come following the development of a test program linking neurologists with home-bound Parkinson’s patients, using video conferencing to provide access to high-quality care.

Ray Dorsey, M.D., is the Professor of Neurology at University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. He argues, “Virtual house calls for chronic diseases like Parkinson’s are not only as effective as in-person care but broader adoption of this technology has the potential to expand access to patient-centered care.”

For Parkinson’s patients, this research can be life-changing. The study found that 40 percent of people with the disease do not see a neurologist soon after diagnosis—putting them at higher risk of falls leading to fractures, or worse.

An Effective Telemedicine Program Can Improve Patient Care

Taking a more broad perspective, however, it is not only Parkinson’s patients that will be able to improve the relationship they have with their doctor. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of conditions which would make it difficult for a patient to travel to see their doctor. These patients would benefit immensely from telehealth services.

That said, you cannot take act hastily when integrating telehealth solutions into your organization. They must be customized to fit the needs and goals of your company, and your patients. Learn more about how your healthcare organization can build a robust telehealth program to improve patient outcomes and expand access to care today.