The denser a population is, the more cumulative dollars they have to spend on services like healthcare. Rural communities, however, have smaller populations that are more spread out, which means they have fewer cumulative dollars to spend. This, in turn, gives them less access to health care services. Telemedicine, however, maybe the solution to providing better healthcare at an affordable cost to even the most rural areas. Here are three ways that telemedicine is helping provide better healthcare to rural areas.
- Cuts down on long trips to a hospital or major healthcare facility: Residents of many rural areas may have to drive several hours to the nearest hospital or major medical facility. In some cases, they may even have to make long drives for checkups, routine appointments, or health concerns that may turn out to be unwarranted. Unlike a phone call, telemedicine allows medical professionals to inspect patients visually. They can look for physical irregularities that may point to more serious underlying conditions. If the provider sees something that is genuinely concerning, they can ask the patient to make the long drive. Otherwise, they can help the patient treat themselves and cut out the long drive.
- Better access to specialists: Many rural communities can barely afford a doctor, let alone a specialist. Telemedicine allows general specialists and even nurse practitioners access to specialists that allows them to provide a higher level of care than their education might allow. With a specialist calling the shots and watching their every move, even a nurse practitioner can perform far more complicated procedures than what they have been specifically trained for.
- Better self-care: There is no doubt that prevention is the best medicine. When any small health concern automatically means a long drive to have it addressed; however, many residents of rural areas forego healthcare entirely. More minor issues that are left unaddressed, yet, tend to snowball into much more significant problems, and those major issues are also much more costly to address. When rural citizens can get basic healthcare without a long drive, they may be much more likely to address their smaller health concerns before they become major concerns. This can help decrease healthcare costs across the board.