UPMC Expert: Telehealth Seeks to Overcome Barriers in Rural Communities | News, Sports, Jobs


Using the internet and wireless devices seems like second nature in our modern lives, but did you know that up to 800,000 Pennsylvanians, or 6% of the Commonwealth’s population, don’t have access to internet? ‘High-speed Internet ? These individuals and families do not have the same connectivity options and technological opportunities as those who have fast, strong and reliable Internet service. Although this was only a minor inconvenience in the past, in today’s world many services continue to shift to internet-based models – apps, tours and virtual tours, etc. – and these people face disparities.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has become increasingly important for delivering healthcare.

For patients who live in rural communities or medically underserved areas, telemedicine can provide the following benefits:

Access to high quality health care and specialized services

• Less travel and travel costs

• Earlier detection and faster diagnosis

• Easier management of chronic diseases

• Fewer hospitalizations

Telemedicine, however, is only an option for patients who have a reliable internet connection. Without high-speed Internet, it can be difficult for healthcare providers to deliver telemedicine services. Even those living in rural areas with smart phones can experience spotty connectivity and inconsistent service, making it nearly impossible to deliver quality care.

To ensure individuals and families residing in rural communities have equitable access to healthcare, we need to improve their broadband coverage and implement user-friendly models of care that consider shared resources.

Telehealth is a secure and easy-to-use method that allows you to share healthcare information or have a video visit with a healthcare provider from your home. When it comes to telemedicine versus telehealth, telemedicine is technically a type of telehealth, and the terms are used interchangeably.

This can be very useful if you live far from your provider’s office, if specialist services are not easily accessible in your area, or if you are too busy to come to an appointment in person. For a telehealth visit, all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a camera.

If high-speed Internet or a strong, reliable cell signal isn’t available where you live, many healthcare providers now offer telemedicine or telehealth clinics. Through these clinics, you visit a doctor’s office where broadband service is available and are seen the same as any other provider visit. A nurse or medical technician will be in the exam room with you to facilitate virtual interaction with your provider. By asking questions and examining you using video technology, your provider can treat you and the nurse or technician helps provide vital signs, support and follow-up care as needed. Virtual visits take about the same time as regular office visits.

You can schedule a telehealth visit the same way you would an in-person appointment, and telehealth visits allow you to connect with primary care, internal medicine, urgent care, and even specialists, with a referral from your primary care or internal medicine center. vendor. Call your provider and ask if a telehealth visit is right for you. If your provider offers telehealth services, their office can schedule your appointment and tell you everything you need.

Reimbursement for telehealth varies by health insurance payer. Many private and government health care plans have expanded telehealth coverage. Contact your health insurance plan and ask if it covers or reimburses video tours offered in your area.

Chad Hunter is the Project Manager for Telehealth Services, UPMC in North Central Pennsylvania. For more information about telehealth services offered at UPMC, visit UPMC.com.

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