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    Telehealth can aid population health growth in rural areas


    The report, which relied on data from The U.S. Census Bureau, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources noted that overall chronic disease afflicts rural residents disproportionally. The report notes that heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke were the five leading causes of death in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014. CDC estimates that annual age-adjusted death rates for these five causes were higher in rural areas than in urban centers between 1999 and 2014. 

    At the same time, while there is high demand for the services of small practice physicians, rural areas are facing hospital closures. According to the National Rural Health Association, more than 70 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. In addition, the rate of closures is accelerating—six times higher in 2015 than in 2010.

    “Many rural hospitals are closing and rural populations are simultaneously facing an increased demand for health care and a reduced supply of healthcare,” Schadelbauer says. “Telehealth is one piece of the potential solution to addressing that problem.”

    Schadelbauer added that rural physicians can learn from the report’s list of non-quantifiable benefits to be derived from telehealth, such as patients can gain access to specialists in a convenient way without the hassle of traveling long distances. Additionally, the availability of telehealth allows patients to be diagnosed and treated faster while staying in their communities.

    “Telehealth also gives doctors in rural communities the opportunity to work with healthcare experts in varying medical fields which helps alleviate the sense of isolation that many physicians in rural areas experience,” Schadelbauer added. “Research also shows that telehealth improves outcomes, lowers costs and raises the health care experience.”





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