There is a pressing need to leverage better healthcare technology access in rural and remote areas. Compared with their urban counterparts, providing health care in rural regions is not straightforward. Rural healthcare providers often practice on a much smaller scale and in greater isolation. Challenges such as high cost of insurance, access to specialist services, lack of technological infrastructure, the limited number of physicians, added travel time, lack of confidence in quality healthcare, and many others need to be addressed.
These are four innovative technology solutions that have the biggest impact on providing high quality healthcare that can empower rural healthcare locations.
Recent advances in telemedicine are making remote consultations and diagnosis easier and more convenient for both patients and providers in rural areas. It has minimized the major challenge that patients encounter, that is long-distance travel for specialty care, and has improved health monitoring, timeliness, and communications within the healthcare system. In addition to clinical services, it can include remote non-clinical services, such as training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education.
- Electronic health records (EHR)
Electronic health records can drive a rural healthcare system from being reactive to proactive. It enables clinicians to access the patient’s medical data, evaluate previous visits, tests, diagnoses, treatments, medication, and correspondence between other specialists irrespective of the location. It allows for more accurate and personalized care and communicates potential problems before they become a risk. Utilizing such powerful insights, providers can practice timely and accurate care without having to spend hours reaching a specific destination. Additionally, EHRs also enables rural healthcare providers to integrate with other healthcare IT capabilities and features such as telemedicine to approach remote pharmacists, clinicians, staff members, and others at its earliest.
- Virtual Reality (VR)
One of the major challenges rural areas or communities face is a lack of the latest healthcare tech expertise. Rural communities rarely have access to specialized training on advanced technologies as it is extremely hard to attract trained medical staff, and harder to retain them for an extended period. Virtual reality can be used to bring specialized training to the rural landscape through training simulations. Using VR providers can be part of a realistic healthcare setting and a range of scenarios can be developed that allow them to gain practical experience without being in the emergency room.
- Wearable technologies
Wearable sensors are already impacting the healthcare setting enabling continuous, and longitudinal health monitoring outside of the clinic. Healthcare providers can adopt wearables to facilitate automated health event prediction, prevention, and intervention. Newly available wearables connected to mobile applications are continuously monitoring vital information and provides fast and easy access to health data. Since vital signs are such a crucial part of the patient check-up, these wireless wearables could play a huge role in the widespread adoption of telemedicine, especially for rural patients.
Several rural areas are in dire need of basic healthcare technology, that can enhance care delivery and allow much more efficient and accurate diagnosis. Leveraging technology can reduce the need for long distance traveling for basic healthcare needs. It can also enable the rural population to have easy, affordable, and quick access to quality care.
Real change can be attained only when urban and rural communities get the same access to quality healthcare.