Today Care on Location was a participant in the 2017 Colorado Rural Health Funding Summit hosted by the non-profit Colorado Rural Health Center.The topics of discussion included an overview of the Colorado rural healthcare landscape, financing and technical assistance opportunities for rural health providers, and broadband internet access and rural health. No surprisingly, Telemedicine came up as a potential solution for some of the access and cost issues faced by the 718,000+ residents that live in a rural or frontier county.
Individuals living in rural Colorado, when compared to their non-rural counterparts, have a higher rate of: obesity, diabetes, vehicular deaths due to alcohol, tobacco use, teen pregnancy, low birth weight babies, and suicide. In the areas of mental health and substance abuse, rural Coloradans have it harder too. They have less access to mental health providers and social workers. Almost 1 in 5 report drinking alcohol excessively and with the rising opioid abuse rate, rural Colorado is being hit harder than metropolitan areas. Between 2002 and 2104 rural Colorado saw a 140% increase in opioid overdose deaths compared to a 96% increase in urban areas.
Access to the right type of medical care is difficult outside urban regions. There are more patients per available Advanced Practice Nurse, Physician, Dentist, Mental Health Provider, and Social Worker compared to urban areas. This can add significant burden to the available providers leading to burnout. According to the Colorado Rural Health Center data, less than 40% of rural primary care providers remain in the same rural community for 5 consecutive years. This healthcare workforce shortage can also contribute to long wait times to see a provider and in the interim waiting, a worsening of medical condition and a worse outcome.
Telemedicine has the potential to increase access to healthcare while helping manage the cost of accessing that care. Travel distances can be quite large outside metropolitan regions. Telemedicine can minimize travel time for these patients while providing them timely access to a quality medical evaluation. It can also help alleviate the burden placed on the local healthcare providers by allowing distant urban providers to supplement the existing system and allow the patient to remain within their community.
The focus of discussion at the Colorado Rural Health Funding Summit was on navigating the various government supported grant and loan programs to help improve care. For all of the rural health systems that were present, expanding access through telemedicine was a component of each of their desired solutions to the issues they face. Care on Location is proud to offer our availability and support as a partner with these rural provider networks. We have mobile telemedicine kits that can be deployed in community and recreation centers, retail centers, or satellite offices. When staffed by an EMT or nurse, patients from the region can be examined using our digital stethoscope and ears, nose, throat, & skin camera when assisted to provide diagnostic information live to a distant licensed health provider on par with an in-person exam.
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