'It's just not possible': Rural hospitals struggle to virtually reach patients

Although many hospitals are ramping up telehealth efforts, rural hospitals often can't provide virtual services due to lack of broadband access, according to NBC News.

In the recently passed federal stimulus package, restrictions have been lifted on telehealth services. However, many patients in rural areas don't have strong internet connections or any at all to connect with hospitals.

"Many of our rural families, and even many of our rural hospitals and clinics, don't have the bandwidth that they need to be able to participate in telehealth services," Beth O'Connor, director of the Virginia Rural Health Association, told NBC News. "So, when you have something like this pandemic when you would prefer to see someone virtually, it's just not possible."

The $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package allocates $100 billion to hospital financial needs. An additional $1.32 billion is for community health centers.

"A lot of small hospitals, they may have 15 to 20 days cash on hand," Brad Huerta, CEO of Lost Rivers Medical Center in Arco, Idaho, told NBC News. "They're trying to make payroll when things are good. Being asked to lay out all this additional expense while at the same time, enacting infection control measures and limit our regular operations … coronavirus is taxing us to the absolute limit."  

More articles on telehealth:
FCC proposes $200M COVID-19 program to equip providers for telehealth
CMS adds 85 more Medicare services covered under telehealth 
Amwell names 2 new executives: 3 things to know

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