Until broadband access improves, telemedicine won’t help rural communities

From Reuters:

Telemedicine has been touted as a solution to the dearth of doctors in rural America. But the same places where residents must drive many miles to see a physician often also have limited broadband access, a new study suggests.

About 25 percent of Americans live in rural communities while a mere 10 percent of physicians practice there, said the study’s lead author, Coleman Drake, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. And making matters worse, people who live out in the country tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts.

“Over the last decade especially, there has been considerable interest in the potential for telehealth to make it easier to access healthcare,” Drake said. “We wondered if telemedicine really could help bridge the gap in access to care. And we discovered that in a lot of rural areas, the lack of access to broadband is potentially limiting access to telehealth.”

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