The Role Of Telemedicine In Rural Communities

By Raymond Jackson

Small towns and rural locations throughout the country often do not have basic medical services located in them. People who live there have no choice but to drive miles away from home for even a checkup or a medication refill. For individuals who are elderly, disabled, or financially strapped, sometimes this means they have to go without the services they desperately need. In these instances, new technology like telemedicine could provide the solution needed to keep rural residents healthy.

The basis for this technology actually is at least 20 years old if not older. It originated at a time when nurses and doctors would drive vans, RVs, and other vehicles to remote areas to visit with and treat patients. Their vehicles served as a sort of healthcare clinic on wheels that could be taken from town to town on a regular basis. The facilities inside of the vehicles themselves allowed providers to offer basic services like blood pressure checks or vaccinations to school children.

Today, phone calls no longer need to be made although they are still an option that can be used. Instead, these medical clinics on wheels have wireless connections that allow them to use the Internet to meet with providers working in clinics and hospitals elsewhere. Communication modes like Skype serve as the platform by which these meetings take place. Doctors and patients are able to come face to face instantly.

During the meeting, the provider on the other end can review the patient's records, speak to the mobile unit provider, and also consult with the patient directly. This gives the person in need of care the opportunity to ask questions, have concerns about his or her health addressed, and set up appointment times for continued care. Patients no longer have to make long distant phone calls or drive miles away for this purpose.

This technology has also proven helpful in addressing the needs of at-risk individuals like the elderly. Aging individuals who live in rural areas sometimes go without the medical services needed to stay safe and well. They sometimes cannot afford to drive miles from home even if they are physically capable of driving.

The providers who work for the services can render aid for a variety of illnesses and injuries. From broken bones to pneumonia, they are able to diagnose and treat patients who might otherwise have gone without healthcare assistance. People using the service likewise might get access to prescription medications.

To pay for the services, many rural communities and hospitals are getting grants from a variety of sources. These include bigger hospitals wanting to branch out their reach to rural residents. It also includes the federal and state government sources.

Many rural and remote areas of the country do not have adequate hospitals, medical clinic, and other health services. They rely on clinics on wheels to come to them. These vehicles are equipped with wireless Internet that allows the providers in them to contact specialists in bigger towns miles away. Patients benefit from the instant care and the accessibility of specialized medicine.

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