Ever since the introduction of Telehealth in the healthcare industry, the quality of healthcare in rural areas has improved. The number of missed appointments among patients has been reduced since Telehealth minimizes transportation costs. Thanks to Telehealth technology, providers can now communicate to patients through digital means such as computers and smartphones from the comfort of their homes.

Although Telehealth has been in existence previously, most healthcare facilities employed its use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to decrease in-person contact necessitated providers to seek alternative means to deliver health and health-related services.

Telehealth solutions providers could access patients using telecommunication technology and other electronic data; providers could access patients, and vice-versa.

Besides provider-patient interaction through video conferencing, Telehealth can take different forms, including storing and forward transmitting medical information and remote patient monitoring. Below, we look at how Telehealth helps enhance healthcare provision in rural areas.

Telehealth in rural communities

Unlike urban residents, individuals living in rural areas of the United States are more likely to die prematurely from the top leading causes of death, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, unintentional injury, and chronic lower respiratory disease. The delivery of health care through telecommunication has significantly improved the health of rural residents. Accessing quality care services can be difficult for those living in rural areas. Fortunately, Telehealth reduces barriers such as transportation and mobility issues for rural areas.

Telehealth has improved the accessibility of health care services for people in rural areas. Through digital means such as audio and video communication, patients can receive instructions or guidelines from their providers. Consequently, doctors can easily manage patients, especially chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes, lung disease, and heart problems. Due to better monitoring, the overall quality of patients’ lives improves. It also reduces the number of cases that would need emergency care since the physicians can control conditions, preventing them from worsening.

Telehealth projects allow rural residents better access to healthcare, thus promoting disease prevention and management programs. For example, remote patient monitoring is a part of Telehealth that uses various devices to facilitate health management. Some of the most commonly used remote patient monitoring devices include heart monitors, blood pressure cuffs, glucometer, and pulse oximeters. These devices automatically monitor, analyze, and record a patient’s acute or chronic conditions. They may record your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate to enable physicians to take proactive measures.

Today, Telehealth reduces the risk factors for heart disease and stroke in rural communities. Through video conferencing, stroke specialists in stroke centers connect with healthcare providers in rural areas with limited resources. Such services help in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke.

A stroke specialist may for instance advise a caregiver in a local hospital to use a clot-busting drug such as alteplase, a life-saving treatment for stroke patients. By partnering with hospitals with telestroke capacity, healthcare providers in rural areas can lower the fatalities resulting from stroke.

Healthcare services administered through Telehealth technology

Home monitoring

Home monitoring allows physicians to follow up with patients and track their response to treatment or medications. It is an effective way to engage with patients and help them manage their health conditions. Home monitoring promotes patient engagement since it encourages communication between healthcare providers and patients. Consequently, patients are more involved in disease management, improving the chances of recovery. All patients can benefit from home monitoring, but this service is essential for high-risk pregnancies and chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

Online therapy

Mental health is an integral part of a person’s well-being. When patients need counseling sessions for disorders such as anxiety and depression, they can get in touch with a therapist online. These services are primarily in video form, allowing your therapist to notice any non-verbal cues from a patient. Individuals in rural communities struggling with opioid or drug addiction can also benefit from virtual therapy sessions.

Since patients don’t have to think about transportation as a barrier, they are less likely to miss their scheduled appointments. As a result, the effectiveness of the treatment improves, and there is a better patient outcome.

Access to quality health services in rural areas can be challenging. Thanks to Telehealth services and programs such as remote patient monitoring provider-to-provider models, people in rural communities have better access to health services.