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Strong Networks and Training Help Telehealth Thrive in Rural Areas

June 5, 2012
at 1:11 pm PST

Chronic disease sufferers and others with medical needs who live far from urban doctors, increasingly turn to telehealthto access quality, convenient care.

These patients have set a trend that stands to gain momentum, according to a recent report by the United Health Center for Health Reform & Modernization. As noted in Healthcare IT News, the report pointed to telemedicine as a prime solution to serving rural patients in need.

To support wide rural dispersion of telehealth resources, the report recommended that rural regions expand broadband connectivity, Healthcare IT News said. The recommendation underlies the need for a strong network on which to run telehealth programs. To maximize their benefits, telehealth tools need to operate on all kinds of electronics, including mobile devices—the ability to talk to a doctor from any place at any time is one of the main advantages of telemedicine. As I’ve mentioned before, mobile collaboration that supports applications like video and telepresencedemands a solid network.

And how important are video applications like telepresence to providing quality telehealth services? I’d argue they’re critical to the doctor/patient relationship. Telepresence has allowed psychiatriststo read their patients’ subtle expressions, while doctors treating Parkinson’s patientsuse telepresence to see the extent of tremors and other symptoms.

But medical providers do need proper training in standards of technology usein order to streamline telehealth services. Telepresence can function as a great training tool: it’s an important technology not only for delivering telehealth care but also for educating doctors. Through telepresence, doctors can talk to technology experts and providers in their fields who are already familiar with certain equipment. They need not travel offsite or take unreasonable amounts of time out of their busy schedules to learn new ways to treat patients. With telepresence, they can train conveniently and efficiently.

Do you live far from your doctors or are you a doctor treating faraway patients? What do you think of consulting on health matters via telepresence?

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