Rural Americans face a wide array of healthcare issues. Not only are they more likely than their urban counterparts to die of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and stroke, but they also have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The factors driving this disparity include housing instability, barriers to nutritious food, and a lack of access to healthcare services, due to widespread rural hospital closures and the large distances to healthcare facilities.
Virtual care modalities, like telehealth and RPM, have proven to be valuable tools in increasing access to care and improving patient outcomes, especially in rural areas.
A 2021 review of studies showed that telehealth interventions positively impacted rural healthcare overall, offering notable advantages such as convenient access to care and lower direct and indirect patient costs.
But research also shows that rural communities face numerous hurdles to accessing telehealth, including internet connectivity and lack of access to the technologies needed for telehealth use. Further, rural hospitals face various barriers in adopting and offering telehealth, with one study noting that rural hospitals were 6% less likely to adopt telehealth services compared to metro-area hospitals.