Rural healthcare is one of the most challenging aspects of the system of healthcare in the US. People in remote regions do not have sufficient access to the most progressive ways of treatment and care as compared to those living in towns and cities. Thus, healthcare providers need to come up with ways of overcoming the obstacles preventing them from delivering the best care. One of the possible approaches to this problem is the introduction of technological devices.
Barriers to High-Quality Rural Healthcare Delivery
One of the greatest obstacles to providing patients in rural regions with appropriate care is the distance that not many of them can overcome to get to healthcare centers. People need care and surveillance not only during their stay at a hospital but also after they are discharged. However, the transportation barrier restricts many rural patients from an opportunity to visit their doctors in time. These limitations result in delayed care, non-attended appointments, and missed or postponed use of medication (Syed, Gerber, & Sharp, 2013). Thus, the transportation barrier is the most crucial one in rural medicine.
Another problem is presented by the insufficient number of medical workers in rural areas. There are not enough healthcare practitioners in remote parts of the country, which leads to rather negative outcomes (McNeil, Mitchell, & Parker, 2014). Because of an insufficient number of doctors and nurses, patients need to wait for a long time to get inspected or operated on. Further, during the post-discharge period, not all people obtain the possibility of being visited by a medical worker. As a result, some patients may develop side effects that could have been omitted if they had a chance of being advised by a practitioner. The same problem concerns emergency cases when there may be no doctors available to provide patients with required services.
One more barrier to providing patients in rural regions with quality care is their unwillingness or inability to understand the practitioners’ advice. People in rural areas frequently are reserved and resistant to attending medical facilities. As a result, they may develop serious health conditions that could have easily been prevented.
The Use of Information Management Tools and Technologies to Monitor and Improve Outcomes
The use of health information management (HIM) is a rather successful tool that helps to eliminate the difficulties concerned with the post-discharge care of patients in rural areas. HIM incorporates a variety of technologies that allow accumulating, sharing, and analyzing various health data. Hospital managers all over the country are seeking approaches to improve their services with the help of technology so as to eliminate the need for their patients to travel long distances (Helseth, 2014). There are many positive examples of implementing HIM systems in rural healthcare. There is evidence-based practice of using robotic surgery at remote hospitals, and medical robots stay at critically ill patients’ bedside instead of actual physicians. Such measures benefit healthcare workers as well as patients and organize the most beneficial environment.
A great example of introducing HIM in rural hospitals is Michigan Rural Healthcare Preservation (MRHP) (Helseth, 2014). This nonprofit network helps to increase access to treatment for rural patients by organizing environments that provide the benefits of the most current technologies. In cooperation with Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in West Branch and Deckerville, MRHP is designing a surgical program where urban surgeons travel to CAHs to perform complicated operations and procedures such as advanced pain care management, spine and orthopedic surgeries, neurosurgery, fusion procedures, and complex urology (Helseth, 2014).
With the help of the mentioned measures, patient outcomes have grown much better, and health management has become easier and more effective.
Recommended Technologies to Improve Patient Post-Hospitalization Outcomes in Rural Settings
To enhance post-discharge outcomes of patients living in rural districts, a variety of technological innovations are suggested. Among them, mHealth (mobile health) applications and telemedicine have earned the biggest popularity.
One of the best mHealth apps is Glucose Buddy: Diabetes Log (“Glucose Buddy: Diabetes Log,” 2017). This application was designed to help patients with diabetes control their health condition and prevent complications. The application sends reminders for such vital activities as taking insulin or measuring blood sugar, thus ensuring that no important procedure is missed.
The second application that is rather useful was created to help patients with chronic kidney disease. CKD Go! Helps patients to monitor their results and see what medicine they need. Also, it helps to create a personalized action (“CKD Go!” 2017).
The third technology that has proved to be effective is telemedicine (Fortney et al., 2013; Weinstein et al., 2014). This method provides remote consultative services for people. Telemedicine is a low-cost but effective way of reducing adverse outcomes in patients.
Using technology in rural hospitals enhances the chances of reaching better patient outcomes. What was considered impossible and miraculous a few years ago, is now becoming a reality in many US hospitals. Telemedicine and mHealth applications are leaders in providing distant help to people in remote regions.
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CKD Go! (2017). Web.
Glucose Buddy: Diabetes Log. (2017). Web.
Helseth, C. (2014). Technology widens care options for rural hospitals. The Rural Monitor. Web.
McNeil, K., Mitchell, R., & Parker, V. (2014). The paradoxical effects of workforce shortages on rural interprofessional practice. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 29(1), 73-82.
Syed, S. T., Gerber, B. S., & Sharp, L. K. (2013). Traveling towards disease: Transportation barriers to health care access. Journal of Community Health, 38(5), 976-993.
Weinstein, R. S., Lopez, A. M., Joseph, B. A., Erps, K. A., Holcomb, M., Barker, G. P., & Krupinski, E. A. (2014). Telemedicine, telehealth, and mobile health applications that work: Opportunities and barriers. The American Journal of Medicine, 127(3), 183-187.