Rural hospitals are more likely than urban facilities to have access to telehealth, a once-underused service that now is playing a key role in treating COVID-19 patients, according to research by two health administration professors in Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.
Drs. Neeraj Puro and Scott Feyereisen say the research can help U.S. hospitals understand the extent to which they are prepared for another wave of the pandemic.
Having telehealth provides hospitals the ability to expand their service offerings in multiple ways. It has the potential, for example, to improve outcomes for high-risk obstetric patients in rural communities. And telehealth facilitated the use of antimicrobials in rural areas where infectious disease physicians were not available.
Still, barriers such as insurance restrictions and technology limitations remain in place, for now preventing the widespread, long-term use of the service. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued temporary waivers to ease some of these restrictions, but these waivers are expected to expire once the public health crisis has passed, with Congressional action required to enshrine more permanent change.