INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A recent report released by NPR and Harvard shows about a quarter of rural Americans now use some form of Telehealth services.
Telemedicine is the exchange of health information through email, messaging, mobile app or live video.
Patients can avoid having to drive, park and endure long waiting room times for a 15-minute check-up.
Rural America makes up about 20% of the country’s population.
Dr. Craig Lammert, a liver specialist at IU Health, says rural America often faces medical, racial and economic gaps.
With almost 95% of Americans now having access to broadband internet, telemedicine can limit the medical gap some patients face.
IU Health started telemedicine services 10 years ago.
Director of Virtual Health Ian McDaniel says like the rest of the country, IU Health has seen more demand in Indiana in recent years.
Lammert says in his Hepatology practice, even looking at a patient can tell him much of what he needs to know.
“Because we have patients that travel from every corner of the state here, telemedicine has been a tremendous asset for us to connect with those patients,” said Lammert.
McDaniel says their telehealth interactions have grown to 500,000 a month. Video visits make up about 200 of those, but that number is growing.
IU Health says when patients take the time to learn the technology and learn to trust a doctor who is miles away, there’s a large return rate.
“Dr. Lammert and I met as soon as I was diagnosed with my disease, but I wanted to move to North Caroline to start school. Because of the relationship I established with Dr. Lammert, I felt very comfortable keeping him as a doctor. So this application allowed us to continue our relationship and continue treatment,” said Abbe Bayless, a patient of Lammert.
IU Health says a big concern is that telemedicine will become another way for people in rural America to get pills faster.
McDaniel says they’ve put policies and best practices in place in an effort to avoid that.