For many of us living in developed suburbs and city urban areas that have access to health facilities may take having them for granted. However, this is usually not the case for some of us living in rural and underserved areas. Having a hospital in many rural and underserved areas is in some cases like putting a gold mine in some of these areas. It is for reasons such as this that telemedicine is poised to create the next upheaval in the healthcare industry.
The idea that we can take bold steps and build a hospital/healthcare facility in every underserved area in the United States and its territories is wishing for an impossibility that, in my view, is equivalent to finding the end of a rainbow. The logistical requirements to build new facilities and staffing them on every street are unachievable, as the cost would be unsustainable.
Another reason is there is insufficient numbers of qualified staff available to support this model for a single shift. In addition, the number of regular visits to ‘at the corner’ facilities in too many cases, will not sustain their overhead costs. Thus, when costs exceed the revenue, it is usually a recipe for failure. In healthcare, financial system failures usually cause harm instead of solve problems for the patients. Health planners in the past that have pursued this strategy failed and are continuing to fail in this regard. Multiple clinics have popped up to fill voids, but in most cases, they seem to maintain a high vacancy as the core model does not seem to meet the needs of today's patients who are on the go.
Telemedicine is a life raft in that regard that can grow into a very viable hovercraft. Telehealth services can reduce the need for many buildings and staffing projects as well as (floundering) operations, by tapping into the existing systems.
Thus, with smart scheduling of the current medical staffing assets, the patients in the rural and underserved areas can tap into the “gold mine” and gain access to the best providers available. The beauty of using telemedicine/telehealth is it is customizable. To this end, access can be continuous (24/7) when configured to provide such coverage. Euphemistically, the lights are always on whenever the patients need it so long as they can get on at an access point. Telemedicine can be on for patient consultations all day, every day, and at all hours.
Why a consultation?
A consult with a medical provider is generally the first necessary step for the patients wanting to know if they are sick, so that they can get the definitive care that help them get well. Telemedicine will save the patients’ trips, for those that would otherwise have to travel to their provider’s office. It will help providers that would otherwise maintain excessive or burdensome overheads for idle staff, facility charges, maintenance, and utility expenses. The cost savings from the revenue collected will be worthwhile invested to ensure providers and staff training, and the technologies and privacy and security requirements are operating at top standard.