Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth

Rural Americans face a number of very dramatic health challenges. They tend to be older, less affluent, and subject to higher instances of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole spends more on health care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country, rural Americans continue to face lower life expectancies than those living in urban areas.

Telehealth—“the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology”—holds tremendous potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas.

A recent Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper, “Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth,” outlines the case to be made for increasing adoption of telehealth in rural areas, and throughout the country. 

According to the paper, the nonquantifiable benefits of telehealth are numerous: improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the comfort of remaining close to home, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation, the ability for health care providers to sharpen their skills, and improved patient outcomes.

CES 2017-5: Next Year, I Will Wear Comfortable Shoes

​ ​​  CES spans several venues in Las Vegas. In my opinion, the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) remains the grand-daddy of the venues, since a major portion of the conference programming is collocated there with an enormous trifecta of three immense areas of expo space. To lend perspective, the LVCC provides golf carts to transport attendees from the South Hall to the Central Hall.

The LVCC is where most of the “fun” stuff resides – Sony, Samsung, Monster, and other entertainment firms occupy large swathes of real estate, and the atmosphere is somewhere between a circus and a carnival, tripped out in neon with the volume turned to 11.

The Sands Exhibition hall, about a ten-minute bus-ride away, is where some of the smaller home health care and fitness players camp out. It is also home to Eureka Park, which features vendors displaying wares that are often not yet to market. It is as crowded, but somewhat less frenetic than LVCC.

I split my time yesterday between those venues. And, if I had to sum my impressions, they are consistent with the ones that I formed last year. Except that this year, they are more intuitive.

NTCA to Host Rural Telehealth Seminar (and, Today is National Rural Health Day)

  Today is National Rural Health Day. And, in fewer than 30 days (December 15), NTCA’s Foundation for Rural Service and Smart Rural Community will host a rural telehealth seminar that will feature a deep dive into rural health issues as well as an opportunity for participants to test-drive telehealth devices. “Rural Health at a Digital Crossroads: Improving Care with Telehealth” will feature academics from the University of Virginia and the University of Southern Maine who will address public health issues and the role of broadband; tech developers who will demonstrate technical solutions; and NTCA’s own IT experts who will discuss network security issues implicated by telehealth.

The conversation could not be more timely or necessary. Telehealth promises beneficial results for rural America. Residents of rural areas experience greater incidences of chronic and other conditions as compared to their urban counterparts. When combined with distance from or lack of access to physicians and health care facilities and prevailing socioeconomic challenges, obstacles to the acquisition of affordable health care arise. Broadband-enabled applications can shatter these barriers and result in improved healthcare at lower costs, benefiting rural users while lowering national healthcare costs.