According to a University of Cincinnati study, the telehealth access disparities in rural areas are expected to continue due to limited resources and weaker internet access. Adequate access to technology and the internet is crucial for telehealth to benefit healthcare delivery, but access to high-speed internet coverage is highly inconsistent across the country. The federal government has acknowledged the issue and announced a $73 million investment in outreach grants to provide more Americans with affordable internet. Efforts are also being made to assist rural communities in obtaining telehealth services.
Telehealth access disparities are likely to persist in rural areas due to limited resources and weaker internet access, according to a recent study by the University of Cincinnati (UC). Although telehealth has the potential to improve healthcare delivery, adequate access to technology and the Internet is a prerequisite for its use.
To understand trends in telehealth access across the United States, UC researchers conducted a county-level data visualization and spatial analysis to determine the relationship between digital disparities and healthcare in the country. The researchers found that access to high-speed internet coverage was highly inconsistent across the country, and there was a strong correlation between the lack of broadband access and the socioeconomic and healthcare vulnerability of some regions.
The federal government has recognized this issue and announced a $73 million investment in outreach grants to provide more Americans with affordable internet. This investment was huge due to healthcare access issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previous research has indicated that rural residents often do not benefit from telehealth. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (AJPM) in September 2022 found that patients living in rural areas had lower telehealth engagement rates compared to urban residents, highlighting the need for geographic targeting.
Despite the challenges, there have been efforts to assist rural communities in obtaining telehealth services. Equum Medical, for example, began a partnership with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) in September 2022 to add telehealth resources to healthcare delivery. Equum Medical aims to assist rural hospitals in filling specialty care gaps through its national network of physicians and virtual care services.
Overall, it is clear that telehealth access disparities will continue to exist in rural areas until sufficient resources are provided to address the issue. The federal government and healthcare organizations can play a critical role in ensuring that rural communities have access to the necessary technology and resources to benefit from telehealth services.