Improving Healthcare Accessibility for Remote Communities Through Virtual Care Platforms
Access to healthcare services is essential for the health and well-being of all individuals. In an ideal world, all patients would be able to receive care when, and where they need it. However, for many who live in remote communities, this is not an option as barriers caused by distance can get in the way of receiving essential healthcare services. This can lead to a number of problems, such as hardship on families, and higher rates of health issues in individuals. To combat these issues caused by limited access to healthcare services in remote communities, many healthcare providers are utilizing innovative care methods.
Here, we’ll explore some of the challenges faced by remote communities, and explain how virtual care is working to improve their access to quality healthcare.
Accessibility Challenges Faced In Remote Communities
Barriers to accessible healthcare within remote communities include distance and reliable transportation, a shortage of healthcare workers, and a lack of health literacy. Each barrier, though different in nature, limits one’s ability to reliably obtain the care they need, when they need it. When combined, these factors can have an even greater negative effect on the wellbeing of individuals, leading to greater disparage across communities.
How Virtual Care is Bridging The Gap in Healthcare Accessibility
One of the biggest challenges in increasing accessibility to healthcare is a lack of ability to address some of the key problems. Some communities simply do not have the population to support a full team of medical staff. Vast landscapes spanning over 200km in distance are also difficult to overcome without greatly increasing population size. One particular solution though, could help to address factors limiting healthcare.
Virtual care platforms, like aTouchAway, bridge many of the gaps that remote communities currently face. They provide on-demand healthcare using stable internet connections, and are able to facilitate a more all-encompassing healthcare experience. Though not a perfect solution, virtual care is able to meet more needs than traditional healthcare, greatly increasing access for those who would otherwise be without.
Removes Barriers Caused by Distance
For most remote communities, distance is one of the greatest limiting factors to accessing care. In fact, in the northern territory of Nunavut, Canada, only 21% of citizens live within 100km of a hospital. Though smaller medical centers exist, accessibility is still very limited. Routine checkups, medical emergencies, and patient management all become increasingly difficult to maintain. In some cases, patients may even require a medevac ranging from $218-$700. By utilizing virtual care platforms, patients are able to get the attention they need without having to travel the distance. What may have otherwise been a 2 hour drive in -40 temperatures can instead be a simple video or phone call from the comfort of their home.
Brings The Full Circle of Care Together For Patients
It is common for patients to receive care from multiple healthcare professionals, especially when they have more than one condition or health need. For example, patients may regularly see a particular specialist or therapist in addition to their primary care provider. For patients who live in remote communities, this can be difficult, as they may have to travel back and forth to appointments.
With virtual care platforms, the entire healthcare process can be combined into one shared space. Records and patient updates are all safely logged and may be shared with different members of the patient’s care team including physicians, therapists, nurses, physiotherapists, and loved ones. The safe storage and sharing of information allows for more effective monitoring of the patient’s well-being and eases the entire care team’s ability to treat or manage new ailments.
Allows Patients To Access Care In a More Timely Manner
The result of the long distances mentioned above means that accessing care when it’s needed can be difficult. Virtual care platforms instead allow patients to report directly to their healthcare provider in minutes rather than hours. These platforms can remind patients to take medicine, perform breathing exercises, connect with a physician, and all around improve their ability to self-manage care. Platforms, like aTouchAway, are even compatible with some preexisting medical monitoring devices. This limits the financial strain for individuals and means they can integrate with the platform for real-time monitoring. The experience mitigates the time to reach medical care, allowing for improved patient outcomes.
Continuing To Improve Access To Healthcare For Patients in Remote Communities
Improving accessibility to healthcare within remote communities has proven to be a difficult task. There are many limiting factors that cannot easily be overcome due to massive financial costs. The low population densities within the remote communities mean some may never have a fully functioning hospital or large-scale medical center. Thankfully, virtual care platforms have been introduced to bridge some of the gaps in the current healthcare system. As these platforms continue to grow, so will the accessibility to healthcare.