Delivering healthcare to rural communities has always been a priority among healthcare organizations. But after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this was made a much bigger priority. There are some barriers to providing proper telehealth services to these communities, such as lack of patient interest and weak internet connections. The pandemic made telemedicine platform developers think at warp-speed to find solutions to address these barriers. Rural hospitals and clinics have also worked tirelessly over the past few months to offset the loss of in-person visits by prioritizing virtual visits. These strategies have proven successful.
One key strategy that is absolutely crucial in caring for patients in rural communities is broadband expansion. In a recent survey of healthcare providers, FierceHealthcare found that many patients, especially seniors, simply do not have the resources required for telemedicine. “Two-thirds of clinicians (65%) report they have patients who can’t use virtual health as they have no computer or Internet.” Health systems are finding ways around this by prioritizing phone consultations and even providing wearable devices to patients. Many telemedicine platforms have generally required high-bandwidth in order to provide video and audio consultations. However, many platform software developers are changing the design of the platforms so they can function on much lower bandwidth. They are also making the platforms accessible on various platforms such as mobile and tablet, in addition to a computer.
Our platform, DrCare247, has made consultations possible with even with low bandwidth connections!
We also have the capability to customize the workflow on our platform to fit any client’s needs, whether it be a rural facility or a large hospital system.
Another key strategy that has helped in bringing more patients to use telemedicine is education. Educating patients about how a virtual visit can reduce exposure to COVID-19, can save costs for them, as well as prevent lost hours of work, is absolutely crucial to get patient buy-in for telemedicine. In rural communities especially, a COVID-19 outbreak could be devastating because of the potential lack of resources available to the population. This risk is mitigated immensely by providing easy access to virtual care. This not only makes sure the workflow for virtual visits is smooth but also drastically improves the patient experience.
As the pandemic marches on, virtual visits are here to stay now and very possibly into the far future. By investing in telemedicine, healthcare organizations can maintain a steady revenue stream by offsetting the decline in revenue that comes from reduced in-person visits. Rural communities need to be considered in the development process of telemedicine platforms. Now is the time for healthcare professionals to focus efforts on providing access to care to patients in these areas.