Rural Americans face a number of very dramatic health challenges. They tend to be older, less affluent, and subject to higher instances of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole spends more on health care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country, rural Americans continue to face lower life expectancies than those living in urban areas.
Telehealth—“the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology”—holds tremendous potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas.
A recent Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper, “Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth,” outlines the case to be made for increasing adoption of telehealth in rural areas, and throughout the country.
According to the paper, the nonquantifiable benefits of telehealth are numerous: improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the comfort of remaining close to home, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation, the ability for health care providers to sharpen their skills, and improved patient outcomes.