Telehealth Paves the Way for Effective Rural Healthcare Services

By CIOReview | Wednesday, December 9, 2015

COLUMBIA, MO: With the advent of Telemedicine- exchange of medical information via electronic means of communication like email, smartphones and wireless tools to improve a patient’s clinical health status, more and more number of telemedicine programs have evolved over the years. A study carried out by University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers, “User Satisfaction with Telehealth: Study of Patients, Providers and Coordinators,” highlights the growing acceptance of video-based healthcare.

Telemedicine or telehealth links healthcare centers or hospitals with community health centers in rural areas covering primary care and specialist referral services, remote patient monitoring, consumer health information and medical education. It allows patients to communicate with physicians anytime at their own convenience.

A team from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, developed three surveys for patients, physicians and on-site equipment coordinators served by the Missouri Telehealth Network- a network formed to connect rural Missourians with physician specialists at MU Health Care. The survey questions were related to perceived benefits such as ease of use, quality of care and acceptance as an alternative form of health services. The study revealed user satisfaction among all three groups.

83 percent of 286 patients surveyed felt they received skilled care during their telehealth visit, and 78 percent agreed they would use the service again. Of 12 site coordinators surveyed, 67 percent agreed that telehealth appointments were easy to coordinate. Eighty-six percent of 21 physicians surveyed were satisfied with the care they were able to provide patients via telehealth.

This study was published in ‘The Health Care Manager’- a journal that provides management information and research findings to managers in institutional health care settings.

“Telehealth uses technology such as video conferencing to bridge the distance between a patient and physician,” says Mirna Becevic, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of telemedicine at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “It allows patients to remain in their communities, saving them from undue hardships related to long-distance travel and time off work. Although the main concept is to provide health services to patients, for telemedicine to be truly effective, it also must be beneficial to those who provide care. The goal of our study was to understand satisfaction levels of all telehealth users."