integrating telehealth strengthening rural health care delivery

 

Integrating telehealth,integrated telehealth partners,integrated telehealth solutions,integrated telehealth services,Strengthening rural health care delivery,rural health care facilities,rural health care facility challenges,Integrating telehealth: Strengthening rural health care delivery

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Dr. Corey Scurlock MD, MBA is the CEO & founder of Equum Medical.

The health care landscape is undergoing a transformation, particularly in how medical services are delivered in rural communities. Amidst rapid technological advancements, telehealth has surfaced as a revolutionary tool, essential for bridging the disparities in health care access. This shift towards virtual care delivery models is not just a convenience – it is a necessity for the sustainability of rural health systems.

Telehealth: A lifeline for rural communities

Rural residents have always faced significant challenges in accessing quality health care. Distance from larger medical centers coupled with a shortage of local health care professionals has historically placed these communities at a disadvantage. Telehealth is changing this narrative by providing immediate access to medical expertise, allowing for timely and often life-saving interventions.

With telehealth platforms, patients can receive consultations, diagnoses, and treatment plans without the need for physical travel. This is especially critical for acute medical conditions where every second counts. By connecting patients with specialists via telemedicine, we are effectively eliminating the barriers imposed by distance, ensuring high-quality care is a right and not a privilege for every individual, regardless of their geographical location.

Diminishing health care inequalities

The gap in health care quality and accessibility between urban and rural populations has long been a topic of concern. Rural residents are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, have limited access to preventive care, and face higher health care expenses. Telehealth offers a means to mitigate these issues by facilitating early diagnosis and care management, thus preventing the escalation of manageable health conditions into critical emergencies.

For rural hospitals, telehealth is more than just a technological addition – it is a strategic asset. It enables these institutions to extend their service offerings and to provide a level of care previously unavailable in their regions. This not only improves patient health outcomes but also aids in alleviating the workforce shortages. Technology empowers overextended medical staff, allowing them to do more with less and focus their efforts where they are needed most.

Sustaining rural health care facilities

Sustaining rural health care facilities

The economic impact of a local hospital closure goes beyond health care. It can be devastating to the rural economy, leading to job losses and a decrease in the community's overall well-being. Telehealth services help prevent such outcomes by expanding the capabilities of these facilities to treat acute and chronic conditions. This integration aids in keeping health care local, maintaining the vitality of these essential institutions and the communities they serve.

Equum Medical's partnership with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) exemplifies our dedication to this cause. Our collaborative efforts have been aimed at leveraging telehealth to not only preserve but enhance the functionality and scope of rural hospitals, enabling them to adapt to the changing health care landscape while continuing to serve as the backbone of their communities.

Creating healthier rural ecosystems

The value of telehealth transcends the direct provision of medical services by fostering the development of a health care ecosystem that supports sustainable, community-wide wellness. Telehealth initiatives can support local public health efforts, deliver educational resources, and promote wellness and preventive care. Such programs empower residents to manage their health proactively, which can lead to reduced hospital admissions and a healthier population overall.

Moreover, telehealth facilitates the creation of integrated health care networks by connecting rural providers with regional and national systems. This allows for the sharing of best practices, expansion of services, and a collaborative approach to complex health issues. In these networks, rural health providers are not isolated but are part of a larger, supportive community of health care professionals.

rural health care facilities

The way forward with telehealth

The integration of telehealth into rural health care is a forward-thinking solution that addresses immediate needs while laying the groundwork for future advancements. It is an acknowledgment that quality health care should be universally accessible and that rural communities deserve the same standard of care as their urban counterparts.

As we look to the future, the continued support and expansion of telehealth services are crucial. We must build on the momentum generated in recent years to ensure that our health care system evolves to meet the needs of every citizen. The role of technology in this cannot be understated – it is the key to unlocking the potential of rural health care and providing a foundation for innovative, accessible, and sustainable care delivery.

Telehealth is more than a temporary fix; it is a permanent and integral part of the health care fabric. The time is now to embrace this technology fully and invest in the health of our rural communities. By committing to the widespread adoption of telehealth, we affirm our dedication to a future where equitable health care is not just an aspiration but a reality for every community across the nation.

At Equum Medical, we're continuously exploring ways to enhance health care, especially for those in rural communities. We were proud to be part of the National Rural Health Association's (NRHA) recent webinar, "Bridging the Gap: Leveraging Telehealth to Drive Value-Based Care in Rural Hospital Settings." This event was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the transformative role telehealth can play for rural hospitals.

Our CEO, Dr. Corey Scurlock, was joined by Kodi Smith from NRHA and Eric Shell, Chairman of Stroudwater Associates, in leading the discussion. Dr. Scurlock shared insights from our work at Equum Medical, highlighting both the challenges and the opportunities in rural health care. We're committed to ensuring that health care in rural settings matches the quality and efficiency found in urban centers.

It was great to be recognized alongside Stroudwater for our collaborative efforts. Working together, we aim to bring about meaningful changes, from shaping policies to securing funding. We believe that by pooling our resources and expertise, we can achieve the best outcomes for rural health care providers and their patients.

A big thanks to the NRHA for hosting such an insightful webinar and allowing us to share our perspective. We're genuinely passionate about our mission, and with the potential of telehealth, we're confident we can make a significant impact in rural health care. Here's to the future of health care, accessible and efficient for all!

In communities dotted across our nation, there is an unseen challenge unfolding. Rural areas, the very heart and soul of our country, are grappling with a health care crisis that's threatening to leave them behind.

The Challenge in Rural Health Care

Access to quality health care, which should be a fundamental right, is facing serious threats in these communities. The problems are multifaceted, intertwining operational losses, severe staff shortages, and escalating patient needs. Many rural hospitals, once pillars of their communities, now teeter on the brink of closure. As they're forced to pare back services or shut down entirely, patients find themselves traveling to distant cities, seeking essential care—a difficult journey for many.

Why Are Rural Providers Struggling?

At the epicenter of this crisis is a nationwide staffing shortage. Rural health care providers, despite their deep commitment and passion, are finding it challenging to compete with urban health systems. The allure of urban facilities, offering higher salaries, better work-life balance, and research opportunities, draws away many potential rural practitioners.

Equum Medical: A Steadfast Partner in Progress

In this landscape, EQUUM Medical stands as a true ally to rural hospitals, having served them loyally for over a decade.

Our transformative approach? Inpatient telehealth.

Telehealth has emerged as an empowering tool, enabling hospitals to expand their offerings and ensure patients receive care within their communities, sidestepping heavy investments in technology or labor. Our expert teams provide comprehensive 24/7 clinical care, from the emergency room to discharge. Our consistent presence addresses and alleviates the care gap resulting from staffing challenges, ensuring every patient receives quality, timely care.

The Equum Medical Impact

The results have been nothing short of transformative:

  • Enhanced specialist availability ensuring patients have access to expert care.
  • Dramatically reduced numbers of patients leaving without receiving care.
  • Smoother patient flow, minimizing delays and inefficiencies.
  • A significant drop in patient transfers, allowing more individuals to receive care within their own community.

EQUUM Medical's mission resonates with clarity: fortifying local care through the strategic use of telehealth. In doing so, we are not merely offering a service—we are forging lasting partnerships with rural communities, supporting their sustainability and growth.

Let's Fortify Rural Health Together

Together, we can bolster and uplift rural hospitals, ensuring every community thrives with the health care it rightfully deserves. Discover the myriad reasons rural hospitals are choosing EQUUM Medical as their trusted partner. Let's unite, collaborate, and set the stage for a robust future in rural health care.

With EQUUM Medical as your partner, top-tier health care is always just around the corner.

Equum Medical and National Rural Health Association partner on IT, telehealth to help sustain the healthcare safety net

Equum Medical is a Gold Member and Exclusive HIT Coalition Partner of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA)

NEW YORKJuly 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has designated Equum Medical as its exclusive Health Information Technology Coalition Partner. The HIT Coalition, with the support and expertise of Equum Medical will work on initiatives to revolutionize care for rural Americans through more widespread and effective use of electronic records and telehealth services.

In 2009 a "Rural Health Information Technology (HIT) Coalition" was convened under the aegis of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Rural Health Resource Center (NRHRC). The HIT coalition operates with the help of NRHRC and Health Tech Strategies, Inc. and is composed of a cross-section of diverse advocates and stake-holders – including representatives of hospitals, clinics, providers, technology organizations, and government.  The Coalition identifies emerging technologies (as well as current policy issues) of critical importance to rural healthcare offering insights of particular interest to rural health care delivery through technology.

"We are excited to expand our relationship with Equum, which has so much experience with the challenges faced in rural healthcare," said Larry Bedell, NRHA's Services Corporation Executive Director. "For many of our members, decisions are being made on expensive digital tools and telehealth services that should  improve productivity and, most importantly, help reduce the impact of workforce shortages, but these organizations need help in sifting through the available options. We have seen that Equum has the depth and breadth of rural health expertise to aid in providing that assistance."

Alone among vendors, Equum offers comprehensive virtual care services with specialists in acute care, virtual nursing, remote monitoring technicians for vital signs and virtual safety sitters, who watch patients at risk of falling or other harms.

"The decision to accept the partnership was driven by our deep belief in the power of collaboration, innovation and inclusivity to transform healthcare delivery for rural communities across the nation," said Corey Scurlock, MD, MBA, founder and CEO of Equum Medical.  With NHRA at the helm, this coalition will do great things to benefit rural healthcare. "NRHA's reputation as a high-integrity, dedicated organization is unmatched; they have consistently demonstrated their commitment to advancing rural healthcare through their tireless advocacy, research and educational initiatives."

Scurlock noted that rural healthcare runs deep in his and his company's DNA. "I grew up in a small Texas town, and I have firsthand knowledge of the full impact of the closure of the only hospital in a community – a loss of access, jobs and people," he said. "Equum has made preserving rural healthcare our top priority."

About Equum
Equum Medical is a nationally recognized, tech-enabled clinical services company that provides the people and processes that ensure investments in telehealth technology succeed in transforming inpatient care. Equum's clinical services platform focuses on the acute care population spanning ED, ICU, nursing and sitter solutions. Learn more here at equummedical.com.

About NRHA
The National Rural Health Association is a national nonprofit organization that brings together thousands of members across the United States to provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. For more go to ruralhealth.us.

Contact
Karsten Russell-Wood
Chief Marketing Officer, Equum Medical
karsten.russell-wood@equummedical.com

Join us as we explore the key insights from the recent NRHA Webinar, where healthcare experts discuss the vital role telehealth plays in rural healthcare facilities and how to successfully implement it.

In the recent NRHA Webinar, healthcare experts Steve Barnett, Corey Scurlock, and Rodney Buchanan shared their wealth of experience in rural hospital operations, healthcare management, financial analysis, strategic planning, and business development. They provided valuable insights into identifying where telehealth can fit within an organization and how to get started. Debunking common myths about the cost and complexity of telehealth, they offered best practices for implementation and discussed the benefits of ongoing program measurement and goal communication to gain buy-in over time.

As a rural healthcare facility, understanding the components and potential benefits of telehealth is essential for evaluating its suitability for your organization. By watching this webinar recap on the Equum Medical Youtube Channel, you'll learn from these industry experts how to effectively implement telehealth solutions, ultimately improving patient care and keeping care within your community.

on telehealth and the future of rural healthcare

As hospitals across the nation confront problems of staffing, rising costs, and a more acutely ill population, simply returning to the pre-pandemic ways of delivering clinical care is not possible. Faced with rising out-of-pocket costs from high-deductible health plans and buoyed by new regulations, patients are demanding consumer-friendly treatment and services. Payment is increasingly based on value as governments experiment with new models of care. With operating margins already challenged, the need to keep patients in the community for care has never been more intense.

Rural and critical access hospitals face those same challenges as well as huge service areas and a lack of specialist physicians. The majority of rural care providers know that technology is a big part of the answer to today’s challenges – especially low-cost, high-return solutions that can be implemented quickly and without friction.

Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle is telehealth. Rural hospitals have for years contracted with academic medical centers for remote episodic help with patients with clinically complex conditions. The recent loss of physicians and nurses to the Great Resignation has complicated matters, as urban hospitals struggle to staff their own departments and remain in pandemic mode.

If the goal is to ensure patients are able to stay in the community, a new, more mature model of telehealth must emerge. Rural hospitals need expert care across departments accessed at key moments on a patient’s journey to prevent unnecessary delays in transitions so people get the right care at the right time in the right setting.

Virtual care can start in what is now the front door of a hospital – the emergency room – all the way to delivering discharge instructions. At each step, virtual caregivers can utilize the electronic health record, saving valuable time for bedside patient care. Rural and critical access hospitals often have to park patients in the hallway as they triage and wait for an open bed. As a wealth of clinical evidence shows, ER patients with delayed care have poorer outcomes. A remote intensivist steeped in critical care medicine can track the vital signs of patients and do intake more quickly after patient arrival, often guiding inexperienced staff through a test, diagnosis, and procedure.

An important use of virtual care is in appropriate patient transfers. Many patients are sent to intensive care who don’t need to be. Some can be easily treated in the ER and sent home. Others may need a complex operation, for which a transfer to a level 1 trauma center is needed.

There are a lot of telehealth solutions vendors, but a successful program must fit a hospital’s unique needs.

Questions to ask include:

  • Are the vendor’s physicians licensed to practice medicine in your state? If not they cannot order tests, prescribe medications, or do anything but recommend a course of action.
  • Are the virtual caregivers dedicated to your facility (and a few others)? They should be enabled to establish relationships with staff physicians and nurses and be able to seamlessly access the electronic patient record.
  • Does the vendor have specialists in every area? For example, many vendors lack psychiatrists, who are in short supply nationally amid an unprecedented rise in mental illness. Psych consults often occur shortly after a patient presents in the ER.
  • Does the vendor know about patient flow optimization techniques that support optimized bed utilization?

Telehealth is not meant to replace in-person staff. Rather, it is about augmenting current capacity, allowing for the continuation of clinical service lines that might otherwise have to be jettisoned for lack of qualified staff.

The need for financial stability must be met by solutions that focus on efficiency, productivity, and cost savings so communities can keep what is often the largest source of income as well as an invaluable resource to keep people healthy.

Corey Scurlock is the founder and CEO of Equum Medical, a telehealth company based in New York that was recently selected as an NRHA Pipeline Partner. Equum’s services span the acute care continuum but are configured to meet the needs of its rural and critical access hospital clients.

References

Kusum S, Mathews, KS, Durst, M, et al. Effect of Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit occupancy on admission decisions and outcomes for critically ill patients. Crit Care Med. 2018 May 46(5): 720–727

Bernstein, SL, Aronsky, D, et al. (2009) The Effect of Emergency Department Crowding on Clinically Oriented Outcomes. Acad Emer Med. (16):1-10

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