Providing in rural areas: technology provides solutions

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mark Schmeler at the University of Pittsburgh says that caring for patients in rural areas is a challenge for healthcare providers of all stripes.

That's why providers, including those who specialize in seating and mobility, are increasingly using technology to make sure patients have the equipment and care they need.

"Things are emerging like telehealth, which is a method to consult with general practitioners in remote areas," he said. "They can dial into a specialist at a center somewhere. It's moving along in other areas of health care, from dermatology to radiology. They all lend themselves well to teleconsultation."

UPitt has worked with telehealth for more than 20 years. Part of UPitt's work: A contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs, whereby it provides support to four centers around the country using teleconsultation.

Technology is a convenient way for providers to spread their services beyond their geographical reach, Schmeler said.

"It's not really a rural issue," he said. "It's getting access to the expertise needed."