Technology has made many aspects of life easier for people living in rural and remote areas. Applications that support instant communication and connection along with devices and machines that reduce the reliance on city or urban based facilities are some of the solutions that improve daily living. In healthcare, this has been a great challenge, especially for patients receiving ongoing or complex treatment for chronic issues, who may need to travel long distances for various healthcare services.
Although rural communities often have access to local healthcare facilities, there are many other factors that contribute to how they can access healthcare. Some factors include cost of insurance and specialist services, having reliable transport to and from required services, time to attend appointments and confidence in the quality of services. A coordinated approach to healthcare that incorporates technology such as artificial intelligence is the ideal goal for rural communities.
The Biggest Barrier — Geography
Due to limited infrastructure and retention of quality healthcare professionals in rural communities, residents often have to spend time and money traveling long distances to receive specialized treatment in the cities. It is common for patients in rural communities to travel over an hour for a 30-minute appointment — a massive drain in time, energy and resource for the chronically unwell and their families.
This is where an electronic health record (EHR) is crucial to population health management, as it enables healthcare professionals to view a patient’s medical history no matter where they are located. Sharing information electronically means patients can receive more timely and accurate care without traveling for miles to get it.
Clinicians are able to view and evaluate previous visits, tests, diagnoses and correspondence between other specialists, allowing for more accurate and personalized care. Where specialist support is required, tele-health systems can make remote consultations and diagnosis easier and more convenient for both patients and clinicians.
A fully comprehensive EHR would be extremely useful for rural patients as it could, in the near future, include digital device data that displays information on a patient’s health issues and can include information about their lifestyle and habits. The global movement towards technology enabled care (TEC) has influenced the growth in digital devices that monitor and record
personal health data. These include fitness bands, blood pressure monitors, digestible pills that monitor medication reaction and adherence. Most of these devices transmit data from a patch or sensor to an app on a smartphone. TEC offers benefits to rural communities where healthcare infrastructure is limited, but smartphone ownership is high.
One of the major stumbling blocks to patient care — medication prescription and dispensation — can also be done remotely. Medication “ATMs” already in use in rural areas in South Africa and India are ensuring that patients are delivered medication they need without reliance on pharmacists, doctors or other hard to find professionals, but in a clinically safe way. In the future, these “ATMs” could have their capabilities enhanced to effectively become an information kiosk and patient portal that could support diagnosis, testing and medication prescription, thereby eliminating pressure on community health centers and hospitals.
Limited Expertise and Training
One of the major challenges facing rural communities is a lack of healthcare expertise — it is hard for communities to gain access to specialized training, hard to attract existing trained medical staff, and harder to retain them for longer periods of time once they are there.
One of the most tried and tested ways to resolve these problems is to bring specialized training to the existing population, which in addition to solving the expertise problem, also ensures that there is adequate career opportunity and growth for the locals. This also allows existing community knowledge and relationships to be leveraged to improve the human touch in medical care.
Connectivity Ensures Patient Care
There are endless possibilities for technology to make a massive improvement to the current model in health, especially the rural health sector.
At the center of the technology is high speed internet.
Since 1998, Colorado Valley Communications has been offering Internet services to the rural areas surrounding La Grange, Schulenburg and Weimar. We currently offer services to the following areas: Borden, Ellinger, Fayetteville, Flatonia, High Hill, La Grange, Moravia, Plum, Round Top, Schulenburg, Warrenton and Weimar.
Colorado Valley’s Fiber Service can serve you with Internet speeds up to 100 Mbps and no data caps. Click here to see if Fiber Service is available in your area. Faster Internet speeds are also available outside of the fiber areas, in some locations up to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
Call us at 979-242-5911, email or chat with a customer service representative today to discover the broadband packages available at your home. For more information about all of our services or if you’d just like to learn more about us, visit our website at www.cvctx.com.