Telemedicine, a Game Changer for Rural Hospitals

Rural hospitals are the unsung heroes of patient care in the community.  Yet the survival of rural hospitals is now in doubt, in large part because many rural residents are choosing to bypass their local hospital in favor of larger urban hospitals.

Without sufficient patient volume hospitals are unable to generate the revenue they need to stay in business. According to national studies anywhere from 20% to over 50% of rural residents are driving past the nearest hospital and seeking treatment outside of their local community.

While reasons for bypassing local hospitals vary, nearly a third of those surveyed said they chose another facility because they felt that urban hospitals provide a higher quality of care.

Telemedicine has the power to change that perception. Based on experience with the telemedicine program at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, when rural patients know their local hospital is using telemedicine, they have higher regard for that hospital and are less likely to bypass it when looking for treatment.  Telemedicine could be a game changer enhancing the competitiveness and attractiveness of rural hospitals for both patients and medical staff.

In a future edition of this blog, we will discuss the impact telemedicine is having on patient safety and clinical quality.