healthcare in rural areas: 5 exciting developments
Rural medicine used to be centered around small cities with few doctors, sometimes with a minor hospital. People who lived 100 miles away had long drives to see their physician. Accidents and acute illnesses claimed more lives than necessary because the rural areas had no medical infrastructure. Accidents happen to people working alone, miles from home. Now they can call for help on a cellphone.
But mobile devices aren't the only innovations making life safer and healthier for people out in the country.
- Telemedicine - Where there have never been doctors, now there are ways to connect doctors with patients over great distances. People can "see" their doctor, discuss symptoms and problems, receive prescriptions, and advice. Telecommunication is especially useful in treating chronic diseases and in psychiatry.
- Rural health clinics - Federal grants and loans are helping to build healthcare clinics in very small towns and villages, where the need is greatest. In addition to the medical aspects of the clinic and a pharmacy, many have Behavioral Health staff as well and are able to meet many of the needs of the surrounding population.
- Home-based medicine - House calls are making a comeback. The population is aging and many of those elderly patients want to stay in their homes. Some are unable to get to the office or clinic so medical professionals are going to them. Home-based care is not only good for the patient, but it is also cost-effective for health agencies.
- Remote data collection - Wireless patches can transmit real-time heart rhythms and vital signs to providers from homes many miles away. Serum glucose levels can be monitored as well from the glucometers. This data collection keeps physicians in touch with patients they don't see very often.
- Remote sampling technology - Instead of spending several hours in a car to drive to a lab, patients can obtain their own blood samples with microsampling technology. This new technology only requires a finger-stick to get a sufficient amount of blood. The kit is then mailed off to the lab and the patient never leaves home.
Healthcare in rural areas is improving with the development of new technologies and the installation of small clinics closer to home. Elderly or disabled patients may not have to leave their homes to get care. Remote monitoring and microsampling technology are easing the stress of illness and disability.