If you need medical care, the first thing you do is set a doctor’s appointment, right? But in some rural areas, basic healthcare needs aren’t met that simply.
Imagine you’re living in Western Nebraska. Or Central Oklahoma. Or rural Maine. If there is a healthcare facility in the area, you’re in luck! And if the waiting list isn’t weeks — or in most cases, months — then you’re even luckier! Such cases are rare, and not enough people understand why.
Lacking access to care
Access to healthcare — especially quality healthcare — is scarce in rural areas. It’s tough for health systems administrators to recruit doctors to remote areas. Naturally, there is more draw to larger towns or cities because there are seemingly more interesting opportunities.
As a result, job postings for psychiatrists or other doctors may be online for months or even years without a response. Such is the case in too many places throughout the United States.
This is why many people living in the middle of nowhere often struggle to find adequate care for anything more complicated than a common cold or flu. Mental health care is often a huge part of this challenge as well.
National shortage of psychiatrists
There are not enough psychiatrists to meet the mental health needs of the United States. There are many reasons for this, but ultimately this means that access to mental health care in rural areas is even more scarce than access to other types of care. This has a detrimental effect on the overall mental health of the nation.
Seeing as recruiting doctors to rural areas is already a struggle, recruiting psychiatrists to remote areas is nearly impossible. This is where telemedicine comes in.
How telemedicine can help
Many doctors — particularly psychiatrists — are becoming more interested in telemedicine because it allows them to practice medicine in an innovative way while working from the comfort of their own home. This can be an asset to health systems everywhere.
For health systems struggling to provide quality care (for example, 24/7 psych care), telemedicine might just be the answer to this rural health crisis.
Vanessa Daves is the marketing coordinator for Iris Telehealth.