Health IT

Primary care shortage? mHealth increases access to care

In the United States, there’s a primary care shortage and an uneven geographic distribution of those physicians across the country. The average wait time to see a physician in the United States, according to Merritt Hawkins, is 18.5 days. If you live in Boston, your wait could be closer to 70 days. In January, the U.S. […]

In the United States, there’s a primary care shortage and an uneven geographic distribution of those physicians across the country. The average wait time to see a physician in the United States, according to Merritt Hawkins, is 18.5 days. If you live in Boston, your wait could be closer to 70 days. In January, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging reported a worrisome shortage of primary care physicians. According to the report, only one in five Americans has adequate access to a primary care physician due to physician shortages in their regions. With an aging population, this shortage is bound to get worse before it improves.

One way that hospitals and developers are working to solve this issue is using mHealth to increase access to care. Due to regulatory hurdles, telehealth/mHealth adoption varies from state to state, but is generally higher in more rural areas. According to the Center for Connected Health, for example, Alaska has a 75% adoption rate. One app that connects patients to primary care physicians is American Well, whether they can’t get an appointment soon enough, are too busy at work to make an in-person appointment, can’t find a babysitter, or need a second opinion.

Telehealth increases access to esteemed medical experts, with the ability to connect patients in rural Alabama with doctors at the nation’s top hospitals. The Mayo Clinic Health System uses telehealth to connect Mayo doctors to emergency responders in some rural areas to help triage patients and prepare emergency department staff for incoming traumas.

Convenient access to care reduces travel time and costs for patients, making them more likely to receive the medical care they need. Patients might choose a telehealth option if they could avoid going to the doctor’s office during flu season, or if they don’t want to waste a vacation day on a potentially unnecessary doctor’s visit.

Telehealth apps also provide medical and first aid information for those times when a physician visit might not be necessary. The Red Cross, for example, has a fabulous First Aid app that provides safety tips and first aid information that can be accessed without an internet connection.

Greater access to care through telehealth and other developing technologies directly impacts public health, improving quality of life and increasing life expectancy. Have you used a telehealth app? I’d love to hear from you!

 

*This post was originally posted on www.FirstDerm.com