Three-quarters of America's land is made up of rural areas, yet as of the most recent census, only 17 percent of Americans live in these regions. The lack of jobs in rural communities - exacerbated by the recession - has pushed millions of workers toward suburbs and metropolitan centers.
As these areas continue to decline, those families who continue to call these communities their homes are forced to respond to the ramifications. This means that medical practices and hospitals are far less in abundance than they are in more populous areas. Residents have a difficult time seeking expedient care, and that could jeopardize their health.
Team-based healthcare transcends distance
Since 2004, the Midwest-based Avera Health Network has operated a network of 75 rural treatment centers - all attached via teleconferencing equipment to a Sioux Falls hub. This allows patients - no matter how isolated they are - to receive high-quality care. Doctors in Sioux Falls are able to interact with the patients and on-site medical professionals in order to administer treatments. The Atlantic speculates that Avera is operating the only long-distance critical care center in the world.
"The magic is being able to see into [the] room," the program's executive director, Jay Weems, told The Atlantic. "But the bigger magic, we think, is the people are on both ends - in the rural community and in the hub - that support each other and work together as team, as medicine is meant to be practiced."
None of this would be possible without advanced medical tools. Telemedicine equipment, such as remote monitoring technology, makes long-distance care possible. As long as a medical practice adopts these tools with the assistance of a healthcare IT consulting firm, they should streamline care for years to come.