In the Face of Poverty, a Scarcity of Providers, and Geographic Isolation, Rural Westerners Find Promise in Telehealth
The Bill Lane Center for the American West and Stanford Medicine have released a new white paper on telehealth in the rural American West to address the region's struggles with poor access to care. The paper builds upon the Lane Center’s earlier work from our Rural West Initiative, as well as ongoing research by our undergraduate teams who have been exploring connections between environment and health in the American West.
Characterized by vast distances, scarcity of care, and even fewer specialist providers, the rural western region challenges health care professionals and policymakers to devise solutions that address an aging and more vulnerable population. Many invidivuals in this region suffer disproportionately from poverty, addiction, obesity, and mental health challenges. The possibility of technological solutions to help them is enticing, but limited by spotty broadband and uneven reimbursement policies.
In May of 2019, we hosted a one-day workshop with Stanford Medicine that examined how telehealth and policy can improve access disparities, and treat the specific population health crises that plague many rural Westerners. Our white paper continues that examination, detailing specific recommendations that decision-makers might consider.
The hurdle of geographic isolation
Improving broadband and reimbursement practices