A Virtual Option for Rural Health Care

A Virtual Option for Rural Health Care

There are so many applications for critical services that are broadband-enabled and frankly, many of these services are even more vital in a rural community due to the handicap of distance.

Chief among them?

Access to rural health care services.

This has been one of the main reasons why NTCA has been so focused on ways we can help enable a more robust opportunity to bring telemedicine services over the broadband networks our members provide. This is also why we had a leading role in the Rural Telehealth Summit at the White House a few years ago and why we have continued to explore ways to connect experts, networks and vendors to see what kind of synergies can take off when we all put our heads together in the name of keeping rural communities alive and robust.

Certainly, more to follow there but it simply adds to my appreciation for NTCA’s Group Health Trustees, who are not only rural broadband executives but also volunteer trustees for a health care program that covers tens of thousands of rural Americans who are employed by NTCA member companies. In the spirit of “walking the talk,” the GHP trustees and NTCA’s Board of Directors recently approved a spec change to our current program that will introduce a consumer-friendly telemedicine program into our current health care line up called Teladoc.

Coming in 2019, Teladoc will allow our GHP participants to access health care without even needing to leave their homes! The service will provide immediate, on-demand access to affordable, quality, non-urgent care through a national network of licensed board-certified U.S.-based doctors including pediatricians. Think of this service as an alternative to using the emergency room or urgent care for minor illnesses…think of doing this from your desk or in your pajamas when you simply feel too crummy to get off the couch.  That is what I call a game changer! I’ve had times when I have been on the road and know that I have a sinus infection (I know not from my amazing medical prowess but from experience…lots and lots of experience with sinus infections!) but have to suffer through them until I get home or until it goes away, simply because I don’t have the time or access to medical care. Doing a visit with a doctor on my iPad from my hotel room? Genius. For rural Americans with even less access to local 24-hour mediclinics or even without access to emergency room care, this is an amazing way to get care needed in a timely way without jumping in the car for a two-hour drive.

And the best part?

A Teladoc appointment is even less expensive than an office visit! Those choosing to use the service will receive the appropriate reimbursement from GHP based on their enrolled medical plan and it will fit perfectly within our GHP offerings.

There might have been no one else more excited about our moving to this next step of member care than I was. Okay…maybe the GHP Trustees as well (led by Toney Prather), but it is the right step for our members, it is the right step for their employees and their families and frankly, it’s the right move for communications companies to offer these critical services over the networks they provide. Win, win, win!

 

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