The latest generation of Apple Watches was unveiled recently, and many in the healthcare community were excited to see the addition of telemedicine-related health-tracking capabilities like ECGs and atrial fibrillation (Afib) detection. For rural healthcare providers, advances like these offer a lot to think about in terms of how they can help facilitate better care for patients, as well as whether they can play a role in areas with provider shortages.
Obviously, a smartwatch is no replacement for hands-on treatment provided by a licensed professional, but these devices do hold potential for monitoring existing health conditions and helping patients collect more accurate, reliable data on themselves that they can then share with their healthcare team.
This technology is developing at the same time that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is signaling that it will likely soon expand reimbursements for telemedicine consultations. It’s not hard to envision a future where a patient can log their health stats with an Apple Watch and/or smartphone, transmit this data to a healthcare provider, have an initial consultation via video conference, and perhaps follow up in person if the provider thinks it’s warranted.
What are the implications for rural hospitals? It’s hard to say with certainty but it does seem that in time, telemedicine can help address some of the issues with rural provider shortages. In the short term, of course, most of our rural patients don’t have Apple Watches, and many don’t even have smartphones, so the immediate need is the same as ever—finding engaged healthcare providers who can build ongoing relationships and serve patients face to face.
However, in the span of a few years, things could change dramatically, especially if more payers follow CMS’s lead. Both providers and hospitals will need to be ready to find their place in a new, more connected healthcare delivery system. Hospitals may find they have an easier time addressing specialist staffing if their specialists can work remotely, but the need for some providers will remain. Ultimately, hospitals need to keep patient care top of mind, and lay the foundation for a delivery system that helps patients get well and feel they’re being heard and seen.
Published by Remedy Medical Services
Remedy Medical Services
At Remedy Medical Services, we work directly with administration by providing a qualified medical director and setting up attainable standards and metrics that improve quality. Remedy Medical Services executive staff are always available to our hospital partners. Hospital administrators collaborate directly with our providers through our monthly staff meetings. Our experience has proven that this is an innovative, sustainable way to improve hospital revenue and keep rural healthcare systems strong.
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