Distance and travel time between patients and care providers can limit access to care. Fortunately, telemedicine can overcome geographic barriers to healthcare, especially for specialized providers. Telemedicine can be particularly beneficial for patients in medically underserved communities and those in rural geographical locations where clinician shortages exist.
April Baumgarten recently wrote an article about the hundreds of rural patients connecting via telemedicine to their doctors. "It saves customers time and money—some patients can't afford to drive to a health care facility hundreds of miles away multiple times", Mark Kerr said.
Telehealth technologies like telemedicine, e-emergency and e-pharmacy are being used more frequently in North Dakota and western Minnesota since hospitals there started investing in the services in the 2000s. Telemedicine encounters went from virtually no appointments in 2008 to more than 5,000 last year. Last year alone, the hospital's telemedicine grew by 52 percent, Altru Regional Services Manager Marsha Waind said. A shortage in health care workforce also may be a reason rural hospitals and clinics invest in telehealth technologies, Marsha Waind and Lynette Dickson said. It can help keep patients and business local, keeping rural health care facilities open, Dickson noted. Telehealth has been shown to overcome barriers to health services caused by distance between patient and provider, access to reliable transportation, fragmentation of care due to gaps in time between appointments, and lack of available providers. Sign up for a free account here.