Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 - 9:38
To date, telemedicine has largely been seen as futuristic. Well, the future is here. Advances in sensor technology, wireless networks, mobile monitoring devices, and telecommunications have all made it possible to address the increasingly dire shortage of healthcare professionals in rural areas. There are approximately 60 million Americans living in rural or frontier areas, and the average age of physicians practicing in these areas is over 55 years. In fact, in over one-quarter of the counties in the United States, there are no practicing physicians.
The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides funding to support a telemedicine infrastructure for rural areas. It also provides funding to support wellness initiatives, which are important ways to reduce the demand for emergency medical treatment. This article offers a threepart approach that can leverage these Recovery Act initiatives to respond to the healthcare crisis in rural and frontier areas.
This approach includes:
- Expanding the use of telemedicine
- Better managing care for chronic disease patients via the use of the medical home concept
- Investing in Ka band satellites to ensure affordable, pervasive, and dependable network connectivity for both telemedicine devices and a medical home network
In spite of the fact that the United States is spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world, the nation ranks poorly on many health indictors when compared to those of other advanced countries. There are actions that need to be taken to correct these problems. The areas facing the most growing disparities in the provision of healthcare are rural and frontier America. This article presents an action plan that describes the deployment of new technologies to address the needs of these medically underserved areas.