5 things to know about rural patients' telehealth experiences

The share of rural households that interacted with healthcare providers online increased from 34 percent in 2019 to 54 percent in 2021, according to a report released Dec. 16 by Connected Nation, a nonprofit focused on expanding broadband access.

Connected Nation's state program in Michigan conducted research on telehealth usage across five of the state's rural counties — Dickinson, Gladwin, Osceola, Roscommon and Sanilac — in 2019. After learning ​​telehealth usage had increased by about 3,003 percent compared with pre-pandemic rates among Medicare users alone as of July 2021, the research team revisited telehealth usage in those counties. 

The researchers surveyed at least 360 adult heads of household in each county between March and June. Here are five key findings from the 2021 report:

  1. The five counties' telehealth usage represented a savings of nearly $13.6 million in one year for 15-minute visits to general practitioners.

  2. Adults age 54 and younger, as well as households with children, are the most likely to interact with healthcare providers online.

  3. The most popular way rural populations interact with healthcare providers is via email, followed by interacting on a provider's website, through video visits and through texting.

  4. Forty-two percent of respondents said they started using telehealth less than 12 months ago.

  5. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they plan to continue using telehealth as much as they do now in the next year. Another 6 percent said they plan to use telehealth more frequently.

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