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Rural West Initiative

Digital Health in the Rural West

Delivering health care services through a range of telecommunication technologies allows providers to offer both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (store and forward) forms of care to the region’s diffuse and disparate populations.

As digital health practices expand, it is critical that we understand how to match a particular technology (from video conferencing to text messaging) to a particular health need.

In rural areas often characterized by a lack of access to broadband internet, virtual visits by telephone and/or text messaging may hold greater promise than more advanced technologies for certain illnesses. The Center’s preliminary work on this topic seeks to catalog what services are currently reimbursed by Medicare and other major healthcare providers. Our researchers are also exploring how telehealth technologies enable intermediaries (e.g. community health workers or family members) to assist in providing care, and how expanding the number of potential healthcare givers affects patient outcomes.

Workshop in May 2019

In partnership with Stanford’s School of Engineering and School of Medicine, the Center hosted a workshop in 2019 on advancing digital health in the Rural West.

The workshop focused on:

  • The current state of digital health in the Rural West
  • How services provided through telecommunications are compensated
  • The fit of particular illnesses to digital health processes
  • Using digital health to educate family caregivers and community health workers
  • Obstacles to greater use of digital health
  • New low cost technology that could fill important digital heath needs

Ongoing Research on Health and the Rural West

We believe this innovative, interdisciplinary collaboration between medicine, environmental science, and the social sciences is necessary for tackling the challenges facing the Rural West. It is our dream to take this model and replicate it across the West. We are excited by possibility of continuing this work in the states of Utah and New Mexico, where we believe there are interested and willing university and medical school partners. By starting with digital health and air quality issues, we want to create a scalable model for collaboration that approaches these issues from multiple perspectives.