How mobile engagement benefits patients in rural communities

Patients demand and deserve convenient, efficient mobile experiences to help them manage their health.

Unfortunately, healthcare still lags most other industries in delivering it.

Like everywhere else, improved mobile patient engagement can have a substantial positive impact on population health in rural and small community care settings. More providers can and should extend their services to hard-to-reach communities via mobile.

Rural communities face a real shortage in providers. Due to remote proximity, it’s just more difficult to attract high numbers of healthcare practitioners to small communities. Consequently, there is no effective way to leverage provider networks in real-time.

According to the National Rural Health Association, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. This is an environment where mobile patient engagement and do the most good.

In the US, the telehealth market is projected to surpass $16.7 billion by 2025. The Advisory Board found that 77% of patients are willing to use virtual care. Mobile and telehealth are how healthcare can most cost effectively distribute services to a wider and broader range of consumers.

Let’s look at some reasons why mobile technologies work well for rural communities.

Geographic barriers

Rural communities face limited infrastructure and difficulty attracting providers, especially for patients needing specialized treatment.

Because rural residents tend to be poorer (On average, per capita income in rural areas is $9,242 lower than the average per capita income in the U.S.), the lack of inexpensive, public transportation is a serious obstacle for patients seeking quality care outside of their communities.

Mobile technologies can help chronically unwell patients and their families avoid the time and expense of long-distance travel to care.

The health IT industry is fortunate that electronic health records (EHRs) enable physicians to view a patient’s data and medical history via mobile technologies, no matter their location. Clinicians can evaluate a patient’s previous visits, tests, etc., and communicate with specialists. Telehealth visits can make consultations and diagnoses easier and more convenient for patients and clinicians alike.

Limited resources

The federal government estimates 50 million rural Americans live in healthcare shortage areas where hospitals, family doctors, surgeons and paramedics are in critically short supply.
In addition, 53% of rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps of bandwidth, the benchmark for internet speed, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lack of high-speed internet access can be a hindrance to accessing information and represents another resource challenge in rural American.
Limited infrastructure in rural communities also often equals limited equipment. This is why mobile technology can be useful to help clinicians with diagnoses and medicine support such as medical image diagnosis. One of the major stumbling blocks to patient care – medication prescription and dispensation – can also be done remotely.

Limited expertise and training

Another major challenge facing rural communities is the lack of provider expertise. Not enough quality healthcare professionals work in rural communities, which means it’s more difficult for patients to access specialists. Rural hospitals have trouble attracting and retaining trained medical staff.

Mobile technologies are the best solution to solve this problem as well.

How mobile apps can improve health

The digital revolution could save healthcare providers more than $300 billion. That massive scale of shift takes time, but incremental movement is happening how.

Here’s how mobile is changing healthcare now:

1. Personal health data tracking: Including emergency contact information and allergies. Many Americans already use tools such as mobile fitness trackers.
2. Real-time provider communication: Telehealth apps let doctors see physical symptoms. Data can be shared with EMRs and portals to inform specialists and improve care continuity.
3. Improved physician and patient efficiency: Physicians and patients don’t have to drive far to interact. Apps can streamline data entry and be used for decision-support.
4. Facilitate disease self-management: A recent study shows that many patients living in rural communities with diseases such as Type 2 diabetes aren’t optimally managing it through diet and physical activities. Mobile apps can help patients self-manage their diseases through education and self-regulation.
5. Genomic data use: Since data can be extracted from the EHR for clinicians, genomic data can help them know whether a specific type of medicine would work for a patient. This saves time by avoiding several treatments to find the right one and the associated multiple follow-up appointments.
Apps bring the physician to the patient’s favorite digital device

Patients connecting with their physicians at the touch of a button is as intimate and patient-focused as it is efficient. In fact, 97% of patients are satisfied with their first use of these technologies and say the tool improved their relationship with their physicians.


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