Rural communities face unique challenges that pose barriers to the adoption of optimal healthcare resources¹. They are often located in geographical areas that are prone to harsh climatic conditions and often experience natural disasters. Rural communities tend to have smaller populations with lower education status and a higher proportion of indigenous residents. There is limited access to key infrastructure needs such as transportation and access to urban centers and cities. Due to many of these constraints rural communities experience shorter life expectancy and higher mortality rates. There is also a higher prevalence of smoking which leads to more chronic illnesses and a healthcare burden with higher hospitalizations and greater utilization of emergency room services.
Telehealth, which includes remote patient monitoring technology, provides digital infrastructure that mitigates some of the effects of these various challenges to ensure that rural communities can utilize healthcare resources that otherwise might not be available. IntelliH has the capabilities to better connect rural communities with health care centers through its state-of-the-art platform, thereby leveling the playing fields for communities that otherwise may be isolated from healthcare resources.
Unique challenges for the adoption of telemedicine and remote patient technology:
Rural communities have socioeconomic barriers that make the process of adopting telehealth equipment more difficult. Expensive sensors and communication tools have a lower probability of utilization particularly given the paucity of healthcare sites available in those communities and the limited ability of individuals to afford them. Furthermore, less access to broadband connectivity options, limits the ability of communities to access the digital infrastructure. IntelliH addresses some of these constraints by utilizing FDA approved sensors that are more easily affordable. The cellular connectivity of tablets and cell phones that our patient app interfaces with further mitigates some of the challenges posed by the lack of Wi-Fi and broadband options.
IntelliH tools to make telemedicine more accessible to rural communities:
The World Health Organization noted that one of the greatest assets to the adoption of widespread telemedicine technology, including mobile health and remote patient monitoring systems, is the nearly ubiquitous availability of smart phones². Almost ¾ of the world’s population now has some access to mobile phones. Furthermore, users of smart-phones report great attachment to the devices they own, as well as the digital ecosystems and apps they use. IntelliH leverages this as an opportunity to provide its patient interfacing app through smart phones and tablets within a user-friendly system that connects with easily affordable external wireless sensors to rapidly, and in the least intrusive way, assimilate a variety of vitals data that provides a complete overview of the patient’s status of health at any given time point.
In order to really boost the capacities of rural communities to create strong digital infrastructures to bring essential healthcare resources to communities, strong collaborative networks that include specialists, educators, research institutions and government and IT providers is required. IntelliH has a slew of communication and collaborative technologies in its armamentarium that provide opportunities to create care teams and bring a variety of different specialists around the patient within its platform. Furthermore, all participants in the care of the patient have access to the same data that is being generated from the patients themselves, providing a true 360-degree view of clinical data around the patient.
Despite the widespread availability of smart phones, as previously mentioned, there are still unique challenges in many rural communities for the adoption of digital health tools. The utilization of autonomous robots, which can remotely interface with patients with minimal intrusion, using a variety of external sensors to obtain vitals-data as well as collaborative tools for communication, has been shown to be quite effective in certain rural settings. IntelliH has in fact connected with autonomous robotic technology so that remote care can be delivered with minimal human resource requirements. This obviously has further opportunities for delivering care in very restricted settings such as assisted care living facilities and nursing homes.
One of the biggest challenges that patients in rural communities face is understanding the accuracy of their medications lists and updating their list as their specialists deem necessary based on their clinical conditions. Most of the errors in medicine occur when there are errors between what the patient is actually taking versus what they are supposed to be on. IntelliH provides a system that uses its telepresence for better medication reconciliation. In the future a dedicated system possibly using AI based technology will be incorporated to our platform to create an automated way to extract the medication data directly from the patient and match it with lists coming from the various physicians that are involved in that particular patient’s care.
Future challenges for the widespread adoption of telehealth in rural communities:
As has been described already one of the most useful applications of telehealth and remote patient monitoring technology is in the rural community setting because of their unique challenges in obtaining optimal health care. Rural communities face high turnover of healthcare professionals which further compounds the problem of accessing proper care. There is still insufficient evidence-based data in the medical literature demonstrating conclusively the cost effectiveness of digital health in rural communities which further hinders the capacity for economic investment in rural communities. Cultural barriers exist which worsens the lack of understanding and acceptance of some of the technology available and finally there are a slew of legal considerations including privacy, informed consent and confidentiality that create unique barriers for the adoption of digital health. IntelliH was built to create a digital ecosystem that would level the playing field across all socioeconomic and demographic populations. Through the adoption of 5G networks and the deployment of communications satellites, more remote areas will have access to better broadband connectivity. IntelliH recognizes the sea change that is coming in communications technology and provides the tools to leverage connectivity in a user-friendly system, so that all patients , regardless of their geographical location, can benefit from the best quality health care.
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