Post-acute care patient readmission into hospitals is up and the number of hospitals and providers in rural areas is down. These trends are resulting in lower health outcomes for millions of Americans. And in many cases, they’re compounding each other.
For example, if a worker slips from a ladder and breaks his leg, the patient is likely unable to drive to receive acute care. And if he lives in a rural area, the odds of him driving to the closest healthcare provider, about 40 miles away, is even lower. Therefore, he will likely find a way to handle the injury on his own – resulting in potential long-term mobility problems and pain.
So, what can providers do to better connect with hard-to-reach patients?
Caring for Rural Populations
According to the latest research, rural areas have a patient-to-primary care physician ratio of about 40 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to urban areas which have 53 physicians for every 100,000 people. Telehealth has the potential to cut down the time it takes for patients to receive an increased quality of care and reduce costs for rural communities. Just ask Andrew Barbash, MD.
Dr. Barbash is a neurologist who practices within one of the nation’s largest telemedicine practices. He’s based in Rockville, Maryland. After using Updox Video Chat for a few months, Dr. Barbash was able to successfully identify a patient suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease during a virtual consultation and recommend treatment.
In the case of an emergency, or in areas that lack access to healthcare providers, practices can offer their patients the opportunity to not only discuss symptoms and conditions but offer a real-time view of issues patients are experiencing.
“Once you figure out how to engage patients on their phones, there really is no turning back,” Dr. Barbash said. “Everyone has a phone, even in rural areas. Combining text and video saves time throughout the whole process while meeting patient preference for convenience.”
For example, if a patient is experiencing an odd rash, instead of having to commute to a far-off clinic in the next-biggest town, the patient can see a doctor by just a few taps of his/her mobile device. These telehealth solutions not only help with the declining access of care for rural patients but also for post-acute care patients. They also allow patients and primary care physicians to consult with and be assessed by specialty care providers across the nation – not just limited to one geographic area – or worst case, not able to be seen at all.
Communicating with Post-Acute Care Patients
About 8 million patients are admitted to post-acute care annually after being discharged from the hospital. Despite the high rates of admissions, patients are less likely to continue receiving follow-up care due to high costs, difficulty in transportation and more.
Through telehealth, patients gain the option to forgo extensive clinical visits and instead receive virtual care at home where it’s most convenient, offering better patient outcomes and lower costs for all parties. Providers can connect with patients on a deeper level during these remote follow-ups because they can actively discuss symptoms, treatments, and options. Patients also have access to a nationwide circle of specialty care providers.
Telehealth also has the ability to ease the minds of family members involved in treatment. Instead of caretakers rushing to call the emergency room at the first sign of trouble, they can jump on a video call to better explain what is happening and staff can manage the request to determine if a doctor is needed and share next steps for the patient to follow.
As the nation’s rural healthcare crisis intensifies and hospital readmissions continue to rise, telehealth technology is becoming medicine’s missing link. Updox Video Chat provides a unique, virtual experience that can improve patient outcomes, strengthen patient-provider relationships, reduce costs and dramatically impact access to care. If you’re ready to meet patients where they are, check out our recent case study to learn why Updox Video Chat may be right for you. Then, schedule a demo with one of our experts.