Rural health and critical access hospitals play a vital role in small communities all over the U.S. Not only do individuals in these communities require the same access to care as others in big cities, healthcare facilities in rural areas are also the primary economic engine, representing up to 20% of an area’s employment and income. When hospitals close in rural areas, medical deserts can form, leaving patients without access to primary and specialty care, forcing them to leave their communities to seek out the health care they need from neighboring urban cities.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, rural healthcare infrastructure was fragile. Vulnerable populations, systemic workflow shortages, and limited resources for providers have been major contributing factors. Since 2010, the U.S. has seen the closure of 138 rural hospitals, with another 453 facilities at risk of closing. The increased burden on these facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more necessary to modernize these facilities so they can deliver the best possible care to patients, while keeping them in their home community.
West-Com, and our suite of digital healthcare products, can help alleviate the burden rural facilities face to provide access to quality healthcare inside a patient’s community. With the implementation of West-Com digital Patient CareBoards™ with virtual care, patients can interface directly with specialists from the comfort of their local hospital. Friends and family can also participate in their loved one’s recovery, even when distance or visitor restrictions prevent them from being there in person. Studies show that when families can participate in patients’ recovery, readmission rates decrease, and patient outcomes improve. Furthermore, transfer rates decline, and patients are more likely to keep follow-up appointments when they can receive care in their own community.
It is imperative we find ways to elevate care in our local communities. Digital technology should not be limited to large, urban hospitals, and is one powerful way rural facilities can attract patients in their community while truly impacting the care they receive.
We’ve put together a guide on four major benefits Patient CareBoards with virtual care provide for rural healthcare facilities. Click here to download your copy and learn why Kearney County Health Services partnered with West-Com to modernize their patient care experience. We highlight a patient story to illustrate firsthand how Kearney now has the necessary technology in place to provide state-of-the-art care within their community.