Telemedicine has great potential to improve medical care in rural areas.
It can help healthcare organizations, providers, and systems improve the quality of medical care in rural areas.
Using telemedicine in rural areas can minimize the burdens and challenges encountered by patients.
It can also improve communications, monitoring, and timeliness within the system.
The Rise of Telemedicine
Telemedicine became one of the most prominent modes of providing healthcare during the COVID-19 outbreak when providers and patients wanted to minimize the in-person contact for regular check-ups.
Reimbursement policies, regulations, and laws were changed on emergency legislation and orders to expand access to telemedicine. Some of these changes become permanent at the state and federal levels.
Telemedicine can take many forms, but the most common is a patient seeking consultation from a remotely located provider. Some of the types of telemedicine include:
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
- Mobile health communication (mHealth)
- Store and forward medical information
How can Telemedicine assist Healthcare Providers in Rural Areas?
In 2015, a National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services Policy briefed, Telehealth in Rural Areas, telemedicine in rural areas can improve provider retention at rural hospitals and reduce provider isolation & burn-out.
In July and August 2022, the Covid Healthcare Coalition conducted a telehealth impact study. It was found that 86.5% of rural physicians had been using telemedicine technology for 6 months or fewer as of mid-2020. According to the survey, 45% of the physicians were satisfied with the services they provided via telemedicine.
With the use of telemedicine in their practice, rural providers can save time and provide better patient care with the facilities like:
- Team-based care
- Specialists for real-time consultations
- Virtual peer networks
- Outsourced analyses
- In-house patient monitoring
- Constant training
- Reduced travel
Implementing telemedicine needs changes in the workflow, procedures, and policies. The staff will need additional training. NCRTC offers physicians and the staff a guide for telehealth resources and tools.
Telehealth and telemedicine are two of the most used terminologies in healthcare. Though they seem similar, they are different.
Let us understand the difference between them first.
The Thin Line between Telemedicine and Telehealth
Telehealth is using electronic data and telecommunications technology to provide clinical healthcare at a distance. It incorporated administrative functions, peer meetings, and providing education.
Telemedicine is used for remote medical services.
The only difference between these terms is that telemedicine is used for medical services while telehealth is used for both medical and non-medical services.
Hence, Telemedicine is a part of Telehealth.
Using telehealth, many services were provided to the people of rural areas. Let us look at some of the most effective services among them.
Effective Healthcare Services with the help of Telemedicine in Rural Areas
Telemedicine has overcome the limitation of location but it has got a long way ahead. Different challenges in this sector need to be tackled.
Challenges in Providing Telemedicine Services in Rural Areas
Telemedicine got a boost during the COVID-19 outbreak. It was present in the industry but not many were aware of it.
It has helped reduce the troubles of the rural residents but, it needs to tackle a few more challenges to be in the field.
Let us understand them thoroughly.
The Requirements for Implementing Telemedicine Services in a Facility
Telemedicine services implementation can be impacted by interoperability and connectivity issues. To achieve successful outcomes, staff training and technology planning are vital steps. Some of the staffing and technology considerations include:
- Training of staff and providers
- Reimbursement and payment methods
- Services to be enhanced through telemedicine
- Required equipment (it may vary depending on the services provided)
- Security and privacy concerns
- Data management services
- Appropriate technology placements in the service area
The National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (TTAC) provides several toolkits that spread light on the equipment used in telehealth and telemedicine programs.
Telehealth.hhs.gov provides information on telehealth implementation for practitioners, staff, and providers. It also includes best practice guides. A CMS initiative aiming to support providers and patients as they switch to telemedicine also provides telehealth resources.
Meeting all the requirements can be difficult.
The government has established several programs to encourage the use of telemedicine in rural healthcare.
Some Funding Programs for Implementing Telemedicine in Rural Areas
There are several funding programs for establishing telehealth in rural areas.
The USDA (U. S. Department of Agriculture) Rural Development has several opportunities and programs for telehealth sponsorship. Some of those are:
The EHB THNP (Evidence-Based Telehealth Network Program) is an HRSA program supporting the existing telehealth program for demonstrating effectiveness (evidence-based) in the increase in access to rural and remote areas.
The USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company) offers Rural Health Care Telecommunications Program that helps rural healthcare providers with the eligible expenses for telecommunication and broadband access.
Upcoming Telemedicine Trends to look out For
The growth in telemedicine refers to the rapid growth of ongoing trends and the development of new ones. These future trends in telemedicine will continue to change the industry.
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Telemedicine applications have become a major patient consideration when choosing a provider for themselves. Telemedicine apps help in building long-term patient relationships, hassle-free report transfer, remote monitoring, emergency care, home monitoring, and chronic care management. Telemedicine in rural areas has got several challenges like, broadband, reimbursement, licensing, and malpractice but they will be overcome soon.
Many healthcare providers have started to use this technology for being in touch with their patients via telemedicine.
If you want to expand your medical practice and reach more patients, let’s connect today to discuss the services you want to incorporate into the application and how we can help you build your telemedicine app.