New York News
Virtual care has great potential to improve rural health and health equity.
Virtual care can either serve to stretch the capabilities of understaffed rural clinics – for example, by pre-screening or triaging patients before sending them to a crowded facility – or to route excess clinical capacity from large academic medical centers to rural clinics, such as by facilitating telehealth appointments between city-based providers and patients in rural areas.
In short, telehealth can improve rural care. Which is why we sat down with Shayan Vyas, senior vice president and medical director of hospital and health system at Teladoc Health – to glean his expertise on telemedicine and rural care, both the benefits and the challenges.
Q. How can virtual care improve rural health?
A. I am enthusiastic about virtual care’s potential to address rural healthcare access, and I believe it can be used to improve barriers to access in a number of ways.
It’s important to remember that improving rural health is more than just increasing access to care. Improving rural health also means improving access to scarcely available specialists and subspecialists that patients may not otherwise be able to see, at least not in a timely manner. This is particularly vital for specialties like stroke or cardiology where access to a specialist via virtual care can literally save lives.
Something we’ve been seeing a lot of success with, specifically for addressing rural health concerns, is this concept of a “hub and spoke” model for telehealth, where hospitals and health systems can partner to bring specialist care closer to those who live in rural and underserved communities.
Rather than requiring patients to travel to a health system’s hub whe