The Benefits of Telemedicine For Those in Rural Communities
The new buzzword in medical treatments today is telemedicine. It has gradually become one of the most popular and practical uses of modern technology in the health industry today. With patients being able to have almost immediate access to medical advice, prescriptions online, and treatment options, it seems to have become a real godsend in today’s modern world.
One area that has embraced the use of telemedicine is in rural communities where traditional medical facilities are far away. Rather than a patient having to travel 30, 40, 50 miles or more to the nearest doctor or clinic, many would have struggled through their emergency or injury on their own, without the use of proper medical supervision - often with dire consequences as a result.
Patients might have viewed the long travel time as more risky to the overall health of the patient or may have even been unable to get the transportation to the proper facility at all. Now with telemedicine, treatment is only as far as your technology. As one report explains, “It’s no secret telemedicine has had a profound impact on the industry, both nationally and globally. Organizations in big and small cities are seeing the benefits of employing such technology, and the biggest impression could arguably be on those living in rural communities.”
Since many of the areas with the largest medical needs can be found in these rural areas, it has been a major focal point of implementation in recent years. The benefits to these outlying communities cannot always be measured in dollars and cents but in quality of life as well.
Access to Experts Everywhere
No one can be an expert in every possible medical situation so even if a rural community already has a qualified physician to service them, there will inevitably come a time when he will need to consult with a specialist in a needed area of medical treatment. Through telemedicine, their ability to have video conferencing with other medical experts is crucial. On the other side, patients who are in need of medical care when the nearest facility is too far to travel to, the needed advice could be as close as the app on your smart phone or your home computer. Patients can receive reliable advice on treatment, get prescriptions online, and be able to consult directly with a doctor without having to make the trip to another location if not entirely necessary.
While consultations are a key ingredient in telemedicine, there is another area where it can be of benefit to rural patients. The use of monitoring devices in long term care, care for the elderly, or those who are in need of regular monitoring of their health can also benefit from this new phase in the health industry. With a number of different tech options for monitoring health, one can be assured that what’s going on in their bodies is being transmitted in real time to specialists in the area of medicine that they need the most. These devices can literally “beam” essential data to monitoring centers whose sole responsibility is to watch over these patients. As pointed out at CIO.com, “Telemedicine uses a variety of electronic communications media, ranging from teleconferencing to image-sharing to remote patient monitoring, to provide clinical services to a patient.”
As the population continues to grow and technology continues to advance, the age of telemedicine will become even more beneficial for those in rural communities in many ways.
One might wonder how telemedicine can improve diagnostics if specimens are remote. Most rural communities do not have the population to support their own diagnosticians, but with telemedicine, centers have been set up (or kiosks) where x-rays, and specimen collections can be obtained and the data sent electronically to the larger populated centers for analysis. Results can be determined and sent back to the patient through secured telecommunication channels. This method saves both the patient and the medical team time while they wait for specimens to be delivered to another location, analyzed, and the results returned often by “snail mail.”
Mental Health Benefits
Those patients that suffer from mental health issues also can benefit from telemedicine technology. Patients can consult with medical doctors, therapists, and other specialists through online chat, videoconferences, and secure online messaging tools. Diagnosis can be made and they can even get their prescriptions online through these secure channels.
The benefits of utilizing telemedicine in rural areas can be endless. With the use of modern technology there is no longer a need for anyone to go without the proper medical care. Even those with severe, life-threatening conditions can find the help they need to improve their health. According to a study reported on in the Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, “The evidence has already shown that formal cardiac rehabilitation programs consistently reduce the risk of further events, improve personal risk factor profiles, encourage compliance with drug therapy, and enhance quality of life through exercise and education.”
It is obvious that those that use telemedicine are benefiting greatly from the new program. The system may not be the end all solution for everyone everywhere but it does bring more people into the fold with each new technological advancement. Through the use of telemedicine, more people are able to live longer, with improved health, and a much better quality of life without the hassles often involved in getting traditional medical treatment.
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