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Telemedicine software for underserved patients: top 3 use cases


During the coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine became a popular solution enabling patients to access their healthcare facilities without virus exposure. However, even when the pandemic has subsided, some patients still need telemedicine as an easily accessible healthcare option.
Editor: Nina Matusevich Last Updated: 07-Mar-2023

These are the underserved patients, including the rural population, chronic condition patients, and older adults. They often delay their medical visits because of the transportation barrier, poor health, or inability to incur medical costs.

So can telemedicine software development help provide a viable alternative to in-person medical visits for such patients? We’ll look into the matter.

Rural dwellers

Transportation difficulties often complicate access to care in remote and rural areas. In such locations, medical facilities are scattered at large distances. According to the 2022 report Health, Work, and Care in Rural America, rural dwellers cover three- to fivefold longer distances to get to a hospital. No wonder the rural population only goes for a hospital visit in case of emergency.

In such conditions, telemedicine can be a viable alternative to in-person visits, saving rural patients time and effort in getting quality care. Telemedicine provides an additional benefit for rural communities. Not every remote consultation requires video conferences, which makes telemedicine more accessible in these areas. Rural patients can go for audio-only consultations via a landline or mobile. Thanks to this option, rural patients have access to professional advice without worrying about internet connectivity issues.

Moreover, telemedicine services are not limited to e-consultations. They have become a viable alternative to some in-house therapies, which can help rural residents get appropriate treatment at home. Thus, telemedicine has proved efficient in managing specific behavioral issues, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, telehealth physiotherapy helps deliver quality care for musculoskeletal diseases, pain management, and injury rehabilitation. 

But are online therapies as effective as offline ones? While clinicians universally admit the efficacy of e-therapies, some patients still prefer combining online therapy sessions with offline therapies – hybrid treatment – for optimal results.

Chronic condition patients

According to National Statistics Reports, as of September 2022, about 60% of US adults have one or more chronic conditions. Nevertheless, such patients often delay their checkup visits. In 2022, the postponed visits rate hit an all-time high of 40%. Patients delayed care for financial reasons, Gallup Poll reports. With chronic diseases, such decisions often lead to condition deterioration or irreparable health damage.

Telemedicine services can improve the situation. First of all, virtual medical appointments cost is typically lower than that of in-person medical visits. According to a 2022 whitepaper by Cigna Healthcare, a virtual non-acute care visit costs a patient $93 less than a consultation on-premises. Patients’ savings grow further with urgent virtual specialty doctor visits – an urgent e-consultation costs $141 lower than an in-person one.

Some providers offer their chronic condition patients remote care services – telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. For example, MaineHealth, a clinic from Maine, provides their diabetic patients with glucose trackers and e-consultations with specialists. With remote patient monitoring, primary care providers can easily monitor their patients' glucose levels. Physicians can then use those results to guide their patients and help them with efficient diabetes management. In addition, telemedicine consultations allow patients to receive diabetes-centered nutrition education from home.

Older population

According to the US Census 2020, there were over 56 million older adults in the country, and the population group is growing steadily. By 2030, the older adult population is projected to surpass 73 million. 

Seniors have specific healthcare challenges, including chronic conditions related to aging (cardiovascular disease, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease) or challenges with access to care. Yet, seniors are eager to “age in place,” or in other words, to live in their home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, ability, or income.

Fortunately, telemedicine services can help providers alleviate those challenges and support aging in place. For example, at the Northwell Health, Staten Island branch, the use of telemedicine in seniors skyrocketed, reaching 30% during the pandemic. The clinic's specialists leveraged landline phone calls to connect with older adults at home, providing checkups and triaging. In addition, the calls helped the provider identify households that experienced food shortages and resolve the issue for the residents.

Meanwhile, telemedicine has found its way to nursing homes. In such facilities for older adults, telemedicine provides three benefits for patients:

  • Improved care access
  • Enhanced doctor-patient communication
  • Reduced hospital travel burdens

Telemedicine consultations in nursing homes can upscale the level of care and save time and money if an emergency happens. For example, in case of a sudden fall or a change in vitals, a nurse can contact a resident asap for a checkup and assess their state. The nurse can then consult the doctor to work out an intervention plan and treat the patient at the facility. It helps the patient avoid unnecessary hospital transfers.

Providing telehealth services for older patients needs some preparation. Before the actual consultation, providers need to:

  • Connect with the patient by phone or mobile to check if the telemedicine tool works properly.
  • Provide seniors with written instructions on telemedicine use. The three principles, for that matter, are the larger font, informative screenshots, and explicit language.
  • Draft an e-visit summary reciting the visit goals, exercises to complete (if any are prescribed), and their benefits for the patient’s health.

Wrapping up

Telemedicine has revolutionized healthcare provision. With telemedicine solutions, providers can leverage various healthcare services – professional consultations and functional therapies, efficient chronic condition management, and patient education from patients’ preferred locations. 

Remote care has become a life vest for underserved patients, enabling them to obtain high-quality healthcare services without unnecessary travel. Telemedicine consultations allow rural residents, older adults, and chronic condition patients to get quality care from the comfort of their own homes with minimized risk and at a lower cost. As a result, underserved patients can cover their healthcare needs without exhausting their resources. Hence, for underserved patients, telemedicine services are a viable alternative to in-person medical visits for the foreseeable future.