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Internet Service Provides Access to Telemedicine in Rural Communities

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The expanding reach of high-speed Internet in rural areas has helped connect communities to healthcare opportunities that were previously unavailable due to a poor ratio of physicians to patients. According to the National Rural Health Association, there are just 40 physicians to every 100,000 patients in rural areas, compared to 53 physicians covering the same amount of patients in urban areas. Fortunately, broadband solutions such as high-speed satellite Internet are closing the gap in healthcare and helping those living in rural and urban areas alike benefit from telemedicine and other new medical technologies.

What Is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine uses telecommunications technology (phones and computers) to connect doctors with their patients and with other doctors for consulting purposes. While telemedicine isn’t new—many doctors have been able to communicate with their patients via email or phone for decades—new advances in technology such as mobile video conferencing and 3D imaging, combined with high-speed Internet service, have advanced the quality of care that medical professionals can provide using telemedicine.

The Benefits of Telemedicine

1)      Fewer Barriers to Accessing Care

The primary goal of telemedicine is to provide quality care to patients who ordinarily wouldn’t have access to it, especially when it’s not an urgent medical need. Instead of driving long distances to a doctor’s office or hospital for minor ailments, patients who live in rural areas can video conference with their doctor to receive diagnoses, treatment advice, and prescriptions. Telemedicine also allows doctors across the world to share information with each other and confer on treatments and diagnoses.

2)      Lower Costs for Providers and Patients

Telemedicine can reduce or eliminate travel costs incurred by visits to the doctor’s office for common complaints. By connecting patients with their doctors via phone or the Internet, telemedicine can save patients time and money and reduce the stress of making lengthy trips by car or public transportation for answers that can be provided in minutes.

For healthcare providers, telemedicine can decrease the readmission of patients with chronic conditions. According to the American Hospital Association, telemedicine monitoring technology (medical tracking apps, video conferencing, etc.) can save money in readmission costs while enabling doctors to monitor patients without exacerbating symptoms by asking them to travel.

3)      Greater Access to Specialized Treatment and Expertise

Telemedicine, which relies on Internet in rural areas, increases the likelihood that residents in those areas can get the expert opinions they need by connecting them with medical specialists across the country. It also makes it easier for these specialists to confer with patients’ primary-care physicians to provide the best treatment possible.

4)      Increased Quality of Care and Better Outcomes

In addition to improvements in convenience and speed, telemedicine can also increase the regularity of care. Thanks to advancements in monitoring technology, doctors can remotely track patients’ health and identify and treat health concerns well before they require hospitalization. According to the American Hospital Association, programs that used technology to help doctors remotely monitor patients reduced hospital readmissions by around 23%.

5)      Patient Participation

Last but not least, telemedicine lowers the barrier to following up with appointments and treatments through virtual consultations. Patients can feel more empowered to take an active role in improving their health and in monitoring their symptoms through apps and other digital tools. This technology allows patients to get the healthcare information they need faster and seek treatment sooner.

Telemedicine is just one of the many improvements that high-speed Internet service brings to healthcare in rural communities. By improving access, participation and quality of care, telemedicine can help rural communities continue to thrive.

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