AI and tech’s rural healthcare revolution: A new dawn

Baha Zeidan shares his vision for how technology will bridge gaps in that hamper delivery of patient care in rural areas.

A technological revolution will transform how rural healthcare providers and rural health clinics improve the quality of patient care.

The Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) data indicates at least 150 rural hospitals across the country have shuttered or ceased providing inpatient hospital services in recent years, a trend that will likely continue.

To ensure that rural patients receive the quality care they deserve, rural healthcare providers must coordinate and deploy care using all available tech resources — including artificial intelligence, telehealth and integration with electronic health record systems — to make the most of their limited resources.

Telehealth as a game-changer

Although roughly one-fifth of the country — or 60 million Americans — reside in rural areas, these populations often suffer from higher mortality rates from cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke. Public transportation is frequently less accessible in rural areas, making it more difficult for many to visit their providers.

Telehealth can close this divide. Dependable broadband internet access remains a hurdle for many rural healthcare providers. Government spending to improve broadband access may help bridge the digital gap, but it will take time for these investments to come to fruition.

Patients want the best possible healthcare delivered with the top technology, regardless of location, and cloud-based EHR systems are the most effective solution. These systems can greatly lower IT and bandwidth needs while offering high configurability, minimal change orders, and reduced efforts.

Cloud-based EHR systems depend on open application programming interfaces (APIs) to unlock their full potential. SaaS-based EHR platforms enable seamless integration with other applications, improving the core EHR and creating a thorough clinical intelligence system.

Providers will increasingly focus on AI

AI can enhance the care offered and patient outcomes, but its effectiveness hinges on accurate and trustworthy information.

While doctors have access to more detailed patient information than ever before, it is often scattered across multiple systems and locations. This fragmentation can lead to repeated tests, increasing healthcare costs and potentially delaying treatment.

By analyzing patient records, AI can help streamline processes and enable providers to make better-informed decisions. For instance, a provider can use the existing test results instead of conducting the same test again, saving time and resources.

With AI, healthcare providers can use data to quickly identify patient patterns and trends that may be difficult for humans to spot. By doing so, they can diagnose patients earlier and more accurately, improving patient outcomes.

Start by building data

By leveraging AI, healthcare providers can identify patient patterns that may have gone unnoticed. To start creating the best possible healthcare system for the future, providers must consolidate healthcare data and make it easily accessible when required. 

For example, an individual who has a high body mass index might be suffering from diabetes, even if they haven’t been diagnosed officially. Because diabetes and obesity can lead to an increase in the risk score of the patient, healthcare providers are starting to use risk modeling more to keep patients’ risk scores and, eventually, costs lower.

While many providers use risk modeling, it is becoming more prevalent in healthcare. Many plans, including Medicare Advantage, are moving toward using risk scoring, which creates some urgency for healthcare providers to follow suit.

Coordinated care to continue

Healthcare facilities coordination is increasingly critical. This approach empowers healthcare providers to use all the available resources to lower costs by reducing the number of patients seeking care in the emergency department.

As a result, the healthcare industry will see more collaboration within the community, with everyone partnering to care for patients. Effective communication between the systems RHCs and hospitals have deployed is essential for achieving this goal.

When healthcare systems communicate, providers gain insight for informed decisions about care.

Efforts to enhance recruiting and retaining nurses will keep expanding in the future. Specifically, increased funding and emphasis on programs to forgive loans for physicians and nurses will attract more healthcare providers willing to work in areas where their skills are most needed.

The future looks bright for improving the quality of care for patients. Are you prepared to help build a better tomorrow?

Baha Zeidan works to improve healthcare experiences and outcomes for both providers and patients, driving the corporate vision, strategic direction and partner relationships at Azalea Health.

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