Rural Health Care Delivery: Connecting Communities Through Technology

Fran Turisco and Jane Metzger, First Consulting Group

This report helps rural health care providers understand technological tools; implementation requirements; and funding and reimbursement resources. A companion survey profiles use of IT by rural providers across California.

November 2002

This 2002 report and companion survey offer information for health care providers to assist in their understanding and implementation of technology tools.

Rural Health Care Delivery: Connecting Communities Through Technology provides an overview and case studies of technology tools available to assist health care providers in rural settings. The report helps providers understand which technology tools are available and how they work; the collaborative environment needed to adopt and implement the technology; and funding and reimbursement resources.

The case studies describe medical groups and practitioners who are using a wide range of technology solutions, from email-based and Web portal applications to image capture and interpretation applications. Technologies discussed also include real-time video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, and support tools for rural home care. One University of Washington study found local rural providers were able to treat 72% of their patients themselves after experiencing an educational telemedicine consult. At least 47% of these patients would have been referred to nonlocal consults had it not been for the technology.

Information for the report was gathered from many sources, including published literature, Web sites, and interviews with rural health agencies, telemedicine associations and programs, health care networks, payers, hospitals, physicians, and technology vendors.

Technology Use in Rural Health Care: California Survey Results surveyed providers throughout the state to determine their use of information technology (IT) and future plans for implementing technological solutions. The survey found that provider organizations in rural areas are very technologically savvy. Nearly 58% of California health care organizations surveyed in rural areas indicated that their organizations relied heavily on the use of IT. Some 28% indicated that their organizations relied moderately on IT and fewer than 15% said that their organizations depended on IT minimally or not at all.

Beyond administrative efficiencies such as scheduling and billing, emailing with providers, and general Web site access, these organizations use technology in a variety of ways. More than 57% of hospitals said they used digital imaging, and 37% of health clinics and 33% of hospitals said they used video teleconferencing applications for patient consultation.

Both reports are available under Document Downloads below.