More than 46 million Americans—15% of the population—live in rural areas, while only 8% of physicians and surgeons choose to practice there. Access to specialty services, such as physical therapy, joint specialists, and oncologists is extremely limited in many rural communities, causing an even greater disparity in healthcare. According to the CDC, up to 25% of people living in rural areas say there are times when they can’t get the healthcare they need.
Because of the lack of access to timely care, along with economic and lifestyle factors, rural populations are much more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, strokes, and lower respiratory diseases, as well as unintentional injuries/death than their urban counterparts.
One of the biggest obstacles is the inability to travel long distances to neighboring urban areas to receive care. Making the trip can mean taking more time away from work, having to find reliable childcare, and—especially now—incurring the added expense of gasoline. The elderly and those with mobility issues have an extra burden as they have to find family or friends who can drive them to their appointments. These challenges can cause individuals to put off care, which can lead to worsening health conditions.
The barrier to accessing healthcare for rural Americans has been coined the “rural mortality penalty.” Each of the contributing factors has led to higher all-cause mortality rates in rural areas when compared to urban communities.
Closing the gap on rural healthcare disparities
The answer to solving these rural healthcare disparities is telemedicine. With virtual video conferencing, providers can securely connect with patients regardless of their location, at any time of the day or night. Patients receive timely access to the care they need when and where it’s most convenient to them. This can help improve care plan adherence, reduce costs for both the patient and the provider, improve outcomes, and enhance the patient experience.
Success Story: Virtual healthcare technology helps bring the expertise of world-class physicians to rural communities.
One of the greatest benefits of virtual health technology is its ability to bring the expertise of world-class specialists to patients, providers, and rural healthcare facilities at any time and in any location. Consider the case of Alexa, a young woman living in a rural California community who was suffering from calf pain and fever. Her blood pressure was severely low and she was beginning to experience organ failure.
Fortunately, Sonoma Valley Hospital uses VidyoHealth for its telemedicine needs. With VidyoHealth, Sonoma had 24/7 access to an infectious disease specialist Javeed Siddiqui, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer at Telemed2U. Alexa was able to get an immediate virtual assessment from Dr. Siddiqui while she was in the ER. Based on information from his assessment, Dr. Siddiqui convinced the orthopedic surgeon on call and other specialists to take Alexa into the operating room where she was put in an induced coma so her body could heal. Because of their ability to collaborate in real time, the team at Sonoma was able to act quickly, which is critical in cases such as Alexa’s. Throughout her recovery, Alexa, her family, and the physicians at Sonoma remained in contact with Dr. Siddiqui.
“I believe that telemedicine actually helped save my life.”
-Alexa, patient of Sonoma Valley Hospital, a VidyoHealth client
Rural Healthcare shouldn’t be a burden
Telehealth provides a perfect opportunity to transform our healthcare industry and bring an end to the rural mortality penalty. By bringing timely care to patients regardless of their location we can finally close the gap on this long-standing health disparity. For patients like Alexa and for those with acute healthcare needs that require consultations with specialists outside their community, telemedicine can be a lifesaver.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine gained vast adoption across the country. While most providers have gone back to mostly in-person visits, they may want to consider expanding their service area via telehealth to help increase access to underserved rural communities in their regions.”
VidyoHealth can help. Our rural healthcare solutions were built for end-to-end digital healthcare delivery, giving providers the ability to easily reach more patients across the care continuum. Our state-of-the-art video conferencing platform offers unmatched quality, security and reliability. With no apps to download, it’s also easy to use for both providers and their patients. VidyoHealth enables clinicians to provide better preventative care and chronic disease management to rural populations, helping to close the gap on healthcare disparities. Contact a Telehealth Expert to learn more today.