The extent to which information technology (IT) and digitalization have been integrated into our lives cannot be understated. One of the fields where they have shown the most promise and have played a significant role in improving it is medical care. IT and digitalization have been utilized in the form of telemedicine or telehealth.
Telehealth is the application of medical care, information dissemination, diagnostics, and treatment via virtual and digital processes. Medical practitioners and patients can be connected remotely via electronic devices.
In 1997, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) were introduced as part of a program that aimed to improve the levels of access to healthcare services in rural areas in the United States.
Generally, they are small hospitals set up a minimum of 35 miles from any other hospital and usually have a maximum of 25 beds. They provide patients with essential medical services for a maximum duration of 96 hours.
Here is how telemedicine is benefiting CAHs.
Improving Staffing in Rural Hospitals
Considering CAHs have limited capacities with regards to equipment, space, and medical staff, telemedicine can help them meet these needs. More medical practitioners performing telemedicine services can make up for fewer doctors, nurses, and technicians. It provides residents in rural areas with much-needed access to experts and specialists.
24/7 Emergency Medical Care Services
CAHs are required to discharge patients early and stick to their 96-hour limit. Telemedicine can help CAHs make up for this by providing both doctors and patients with remote access for emergency care services. Limited capacities at CAHs’ emergency departments can make it difficult to provide beds for all patients. Telemedicine can help change that.
Improve the Speed of Treatment
One of the primary issues at CAHs is the long wait times involved due to limited capacities. Patients in rural areas have to wait inordinate amounts of time waiting for doctor appointments, specialist appointments, and transferals because physicians and medical practitioners visit the CAHs for limited amounts of time.
Telemedicine allows patients and doctors to make their appointments from the comfort of their own homes.
Reduce Hospital Readmissions
When it comes to reducing the risk of hospital readmission, the best methods are to employ preventative care and aftercare. Considering the fact that in many rural areas, hospitals are typically located at significant distances from people, patients tend to visit only when their condition becomes serious.
Telemedicine services and the option for remote monitoring allow patients to contact medical staff for the purpose of checking on changes in health and receive proper preventative and aftercare.
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