For many Americans, living in the rural countryside is nothing short of heaven. Unfortunately, there is trouble brewing in paradise.
Since 2010, 83 rural hospitals have closed, according to the National Rural Health Association, including three in our own home state of Missouri (Parkland Health Center in Farmington, Sac-Osage Hospital in Osceola, and SoutheastHealth Center in Ellington). What’s more, more than 200 others are in danger of closing.
The current state of rural affairs is not entirely unexpected. After all, rural populations are declining and a greater percentage of who remain are uninsured or elderly; the cost of keeping up with technology is prohibitively expensive; recruiting doctors and nurses to rural areas is problematic, which leads to the inability to offer high-margin specialty services; and getting these uninsured and elderly patients to the rural hospital in times of need is difficult at best.
4 Ways Telehealth Can Help Rural Hospitals
In 2012, the Institute of Medicine released a report entitled, “The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care Environment.” The report concluded that telehealth drives volume, increases quality of care, and reduces costs by reducing readmissions and unnecessary emergency department visits for rural communities. In short, telehealth can help rural hospitals can reduce costs and reduce the time it takes rural patients to receive care.
The study identified four ways that rural hospitals can take advantage of telehealth:
- Remote patient monitoring
- Remote consultations with clinicians
- Outsourced diagnostic analysis
- Remote specialist consultations
At Advanced TeleHealth Solutions, we are in the business of remote patient monitoring, which includes remote consultations with our clinical team. While we certainly don’t provide outsourced diagnostic analysis, our clinical team regularly and often communicates with the patients’ primary and specialty physicians to ensure continuity of care. Because of our role as a telehealth and telemonitoring provider, we have seen firsthand the impact remote patient monitoring can have not only on rural patients, but also on patients who live in urban and suburban areas.
Back to Rural America
When rural patients know that their hospital has a telehealth program in place, they likely are less prone to bypass that hospital for treatment at an urban or suburban facility. After all, it is well known that healthcare is predominantly local; unless patients have a reason to leave the local community to receive care, they won’t. With remote patient monitoring, one of those reasons is taken off the table.
Telemonitoring will not only keep local patients local, but also reduce costs while doing so. As proof, you need look no further than North Carolina-based FirstHealth Home Care, which showed decreased hospitalization rates for seniors enrolled in its Home Care Chronic Disease Program. Patients previously diagnosed with heart failure, diabetes, or COPD and who experienced frequent hospitalizations are remotely monitored at home between periodic visits from nursing staff. Response and intervention times have improved substantially, according to the program.
Despite all the benefits of remote patient monitoring, the Center for Rural Health Analysis estimates that roughly two-thirds of rural hospitals have no telehealth services, primarily because of a lack of resources, as well as limited broadband connectivity.
We at Advanced TeleHealth Solutions believe that telemonitoring is a path forward for rural hospitals, and we’d like to help. If you think so, too, then call us at 888.812.0888 or click here to connect with us.
About Karen Thomas
Karen Thomas is a certified management accountant and the president of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions, one of the leading telehealth monitoring companies in the U.S. Karen is a nationally renowned speaker, a lecturer for Missouri State University’s graduate-level Health Care Administration program, and a contributing author to, “Home Telehealth: Connecting Care Within the Community,” published by Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. Karen has appeared on numerous webinars and has spoken at dozens of conferences on the benefits of remote patient monitoring, generating enhanced clinical outcomes, patient engagement, and coordination of care. She is a member of the Missouri Governors Innovation Task Force, a past board member of the National Association for Home Care and Private Duty Home Care Association, a member of the American Telemedicine Association and the American Society on Aging, and a past ex-officio member of the advisory board of HealthCare Technology Association of America.