Rural America faces unique healthcare challenges.
Population density is low, and infrastructure can be scarce.
You may have medical staff in areas of your facility that are hours away from the nearest hospital and at least a couple of hours from your nearest urgent care center or emergency room.
One of the biggest healthcare challenges in rural America is inadequate access to health care. According to the National Rural Health Association, more than 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, but only about 9% of physicians practice there. This shortage of providers means that patients often have to travel long distances for care.
Rural America's healthcare challenges are well-known and widely discussed. In most cases, rural areas have less access to care than their urban counterparts, including less advanced medical equipment and fewer specialists. However, numerous initiatives are underway to address these long-standing issues.
For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) improves access to and reduces the cost of care for millions of rural Americans. CMS and most private insurance companies have committed to enhancing the quality and access to care by committing payment for remote technology services and solutions. The varying solutions complement emerging telehealth and video-medicine technology.
Solutions to Healthcare Challenges in Rural America
Although the significant challenges in providing quality healthcare in rural America may seem insurmountable, there are solutions.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Create Transportation Solutions
One quick way to address the lack of access to care in rural areas is to create transportation solutions. This could involve partnering with local taxi or Uber drivers to provide transportation to and from appointments. Obviously this would require coordinating appointments.
Alternatively, you could consider working with a regional healthcare organization to set up a shuttle service that picks up patients from designated locations and takes them to their appointments. That would not only make it easier for patients to get the care they need but would also help reduce no-show rates for the providers.
It is important to note that transport solutions will look different in each community. What works in one area might not work in another. That is why it is essential to partner with local leaders and organizations to create a strategy that will work for your community.
Community Health Centers
Another way to address the challenges of patient care in rural America is to support community health centers. These centers provide various services, including primary and preventive care, dental care, mental health services, and more.
Community health centers are often located in underserved areas and offer sliding-scale fees based on a patient's income. It makes them a great option for patients who might not otherwise afford care.
In addition to providing quality care, community health centers also create jobs and support the local economy.
Telehealth and Telemedicine
Telehealth and telemedicine are also great solutions for rural patient care. These technologies allow patients to connect with providers via video conferencing, secure email and secure text messaging.
Telehealth and telemedicine can be used for various purposes, including consultations, follow-ups, mental health services, and more. They are also an excellent option for patients who live in remote areas or have transportation issues.
These services are growing in popularity, and more providers offer them every day. If you are looking for a way to improve patient care in your community, this is an option worth considering.
Technology has come a long way in healthcare. We are continuously expanding our horizons from robot-assisted surgeries to 3D-printed body parts. Currently, there are many types of wireless devices that can monitor ones vital signs (including Oxygen saturation, Heart Rate, Respiratory Rate, Temperature, etc.), real time Cardiac Monitoring for arrhythmias, fall detection, and more.
Many patients that previously would be hospitalized to monitor certain conditions can now be monitored at home, regardless of the distance from your doctor. Consider this:
You drive two hours to see your doctor as you’ve had 2 days of fever, cough, and mild shortness of breath. Your doctor diagnoses you with Covid, but you’re not sick enough (or you refuse) to be hospitalized. Your doctor can now send you home with wireless devices (eg.- a patch) that monitors your Temperature, Respiratory Rate, Oxygen level, and Heart Rate), and he/she can monitor you while you are at home. Should your condition worsen, intervention can occur before things become critical. Early intervention is one of the tremendous benefits of remote monitoring, not to mention the comfort and confidence one has knowing they’re not “on their own”.
One extreme example of this capability was demonstrated by Infiniwell.ai. (See blog "Monitor patients in real-time while flying commercial" to watch the short video monitoring a patient while flying a commercial airline at 30,000 feet in the air. Connected to American Airlines’ wifi, a “caregiver” can easily monitor their patient in real-time, and vice-versa.
There are many solutions to the challenges of patient care in rural America. By partnering with local leaders and organizations, you can create a solution that will work for your community. And by using telehealth and telemedicine along with remote monitoring solutions, quality care can be provided to patients who might otherwise go without.
At Infiniwell.ai, we always push to accelerate better healthcare anywhere, provide multiple personal health monitoring solutions, and ultimately solve rural health challenges. Join us as we showcase more of this at the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) conference on April 19-21, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas, TX.
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