Telemedicine Brings Specialized Care to Rural Areas

Asian Telemedicine Doctor

Unfortunately, not everyone lives within striking distance of good, affordable healthcare.

Rural areas often have far fewer primary care providers per capita than can be found in metropolitan areas— and even fewer specialists, especially clinicians working in the mental health field. Patients living in remote areas often make less money and have no or poor insurance. With fewer public transportation options, traveling to appointments can also be difficult, and appropriate follow-up can be non-existent.

Fewer providers, lower incomes, lack of insurance coverage, and challenges with accessibility can have serious consequences for our rural neighbors. This is especially tragic because men and women living in remote areas are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic diseases like congestive heart failure, diabetes, and COPD than those living in urban areas. They are also far less likely to seek treatment for mental health disorders. This is due in part to the lack of availability of mental health specialists.

Sadly, the need for effective substance use disorder treatment is especially prevalent in rural areas. It’s also clear that many patients who live in rural areas need mental health care, but either cannot access it, or choose not to seek it due to fear, embarrassment, or perceived social stigma.

The good news is that thanks to the burgeoning field of telemedicine, people who live in rural areas are gaining better access to affordable, quality care—and this has widespread ramifications for mental health. In fact, a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper found that 72% of patients between the ages of 18 and 44 said they would be willing to receive mental health care virtually rather than in person.

Already, telemedicine is changing how patients in rural areas are receiving mental health services by:

Addressing the serious shortage of mental healthcare professionals

The shortage of mental health professionals, counselors, and psychiatrists is not just a problem in rural areas; it’s a national crisis. Thanks to telemedicine, mental health professionals are no longer limited by geographic boundaries—they can treat people via a secure video-conferencing platform anywhere in the country. Even local travel time has been reduced or eliminated, giving mental health professionals even more hours of treatment time.

Improving accessibility and convenience to patients in need.

When a patient lives in a rural area, lacks adequate transportation, or cannot physically access a mental health professional’s office for any reason, telemedicine provides a secure, affordable way to access treatment through an Internet connection and video conferencing software.

Minimizing perceived stigma and protecting privacy.

For many, seeking mental health services is still taboo. For patients who are concerned about a perceived social stigma, accessing mental health services remotely via telemedicine offers more protection to their privacy. Many patients report feeling more comfortable having their counseling sessions or therapy appointments from the privacy of their own homes.

Changing addiction treatment.

Problems with opioid addiction are especially prevalent in remote areas of the country—regions where people have great difficulty accessing quality, affordable mental healthcare. Efforts to address the opioid addiction epidemic through telemedicine and online treatment have intensified.
Ensuring better mental health accounts while reducing mortality rates depends on the ability of rural patients to access quality, affordable care. Telemedicine is giving these patients a way to receive care through virtual appointments without having to worry about childcare, traveling to an office location, or leaving work. Telemedicine is also providing a way for mental health professionals to follow up more thoroughly with virtual patients in a timely manner, improving communications and leading to better outcomes.

Above All Odds is here to help!

We are pleased to announce that we are currently accepting referrals to serve persons of all ages with mental health and/or substance use conditions, and also those in need of medication management from rural jurisdictions through our innovative Telehealth System. Above All Odds understands that there is a shortage of services in our neighboring rural jurisdictions and are happy to expand our telehealth service to reach persons in those areas who are in need of behavioral health treatment. Please visit our website to make a referral at abovealloddsmd.com/referrals or contact us directly at (443) 708-5699 to schedule an appointment today!

Above All Odds looks forward to serving all of your behavioral health needs!