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Closing The Gap: How RPM Improves Access to Care for Rural Health Clinics

Updated: Apr 10

One in 5 Americans live in rural areas. 20% of our population resides in areas where distances stretch and communities are scattered, causing access to healthcare in rural areas to be an ongoing challenge.

Rural Health Community

Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) often struggle with limited resources, including a shortage of healthcare providers and specialty doctors, leaving residents underserved, and vulnerable. However, advancements in healthcare technology are changing this narrative, bringing hope and solutions to these remote areas where access to care is limited. One such advancement is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), a game-changer in bridging the healthcare gap for rural communities.


The Rural Health Challenge

Rural communities face unique healthcare challenges, including limited access to healthcare facilities, a scarcity of healthcare professionals, and socioeconomic factors that create barriers for individuals to have access to care. According to the National Library of Medicine,  the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is significantly lower than in urban areas.

This shortage leads to delays in care, poorer health outcomes, and increased mortality rates for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and COPD. The shortage also causes access to specialty providers to be limited. Since chronic conditions are prominent in rural communities, patients of these conditions often are faced with a geographical disconnect between provider and patient. This disconnect can put many burdens on the patient and their loved ones. Not only does this put a financial burden on patients due to the cost of travel, but it also adds additional stress due to the multitude of healthcare related challenges that the patient must endure in order to receive care. (Health Resources & Services Administration, 2021)


The Role of Remote Patient Monitoring

RPM is transforming rural healthcare by providing a lifeline to patients who would otherwise struggle to access care. This technology allows patients to monitor their health from the comfort of their homes, eliminating the need for frequent trips to healthcare facilities, lessening the burdens and stresses patients previously had to endure on top of managing their conditions. For rural health clinics, RPM offers a cost-effective solution to monitor patients with chronic conditions, reducing hospital readmissions and improving overall patient outcomes.


Benefits of Virtual Care for Rural Health Clinics

  • Convenience: Remote monitoring makes healthcare more accessible by allowing patients to manage their health remotely, reducing the need for long-distance travel, and empowering patients to take initiative to be a self-advocate throughout their healthcare journey. 

  • Reduced Hospital Overcrowding: By monitoring patients remotely, virtual care programs help reduce the burden on hospitals, especially in rural areas with limited healthcare facilities. Remote data monitoring allows for providers to lessen the amount of patients unnecessarily sent to seek emergency services. 

  • Quality Patient Care: RPM enables healthcare providers to monitor patients' vital signs and symptoms in real-time, allowing for timely interventions and better management of chronic conditions. Partnering with an organization like Impilo can optimize your patients care by offering them personalized device support, and recommendations based on data for patient care. 

  • Elderly Care: Virtual care programs protect the elderly population from unnecessary exposure to diseases in hospitals, allowing them to receive care in the safety and comfort of their homes.


Government Support and Funding

Recognizing the importance of RPM in rural healthcare, the United States government has taken steps to support its adoption. Government-sponsored grants and loan programs are available to help healthcare organizations embrace virtual technologies. Additionally, recent initiatives, such as the $110 million in USDA grants and the MOBILE Health Care Act, aim to improve access to care in rural communities through innovative solutions like mobile health delivery clinics.


Challenges and Solutions in Rural Healthcare

Despite the benefits of virtual care programs, there are challenges to its widespread adoption in rural areas. One major challenge is the lack of reliable internet access, which is crucial for transmitting patient data in real-time. To address this issue, some healthcare organizations are exploring alternative communication methods, such as mobile networks or satellite internet. Another challenge is the cost of implementing RPM systems, which can be prohibitive for small rural clinics. However, government grants and funding programs, as well as CPT billing code incentives are available to help offset these costs and make virtual care more accessible to rural healthcare providers.


Future Outlook: The Potential of RPM in Rural Healthcare

As technology continues to evolve, the potential of RPM in rural healthcare is limitless. Advancements in wearable technology, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, are making it easier than ever for patients to monitor their health from home. Additionally, companies are emerging that offer services to support virtual care programs. These companies are allowing platforms to become more comprehensive, allowing for unified communication between patients and healthcare providers. With continued support and investment, RPM has the potential to revolutionize rural healthcare, ensuring that all patients, regardless of geographical location, have access to the care they need.


Remote Patient Monitoring is transforming rural healthcare by bridging the gap between patients and providers. By providing a convenient and cost-effective way to monitor patients with chronic conditions, RPM is improving access to quality healthcare in rural communities. With continued support and investment, RPM has the potential to champion providers and patients in rural healthcare, ensuring that no community is left behind in the journey to better health. By incorporating virtual care into their healthcare delivery model, rural health clinics can enhance patient care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes for their communities. As technology continues to evolve, remote patient monitoring programs will play an increasingly important role in closing the healthcare gap and ensuring that all patients, regardless of location, have access to the care they need.


Interested in learning how to optimize your patient care?

Contact us: sales@impilo.health


References:

United States Census Bureau. (2017, August). The Changing Economics and Demographics of Rural America. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2017/08/rural-america.html

National Rural Health Association. (2022). Rural Health Clinics.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2021). Remote Patient Monitoring.



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