Virtual health: Neither snow, nor rain, nor distance are barriers to high-quality health care
The tiny town of Cicely, Alaska, has a health care access problem similar to other communities in remote, sparsely populated locations—it lacks a physician to treat the residents, and the nearest hospital is a 200-mile plane ride away. One day, recently graduated New York City physician Joel Fleischman, M.D.—who intends to practice medicine at a large Anchorage hospital to repay the state for underwriting his education—is assigned to be Cicely’s new general practitioner. Local residents are thrilled, Fleishman, not so much. The resulting clash of cultures and expectations drove comedic situations on the award-winning 1990s TV show Northern Exposure.
In real life, access to physicians and other health care resources can be a top priority to Alaska’s geographically isolated residents.2 There are a number of federally funded and/or operated agencies that can provide care to these sparsely populated areas. They include Indian Health Service (IHS), which is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives; Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), community-based and patient-directed primary care centers that exist to serve those who have limited access to care; Military Health System (MHS) members and dependents on and off US military bases; and the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers.
Access issues are not confined to the public sector. Patients of rural commercial heath systems might have to travel many miles for everything from basic check-ups to chemotherapy. Such situations heighten the urgency for widespread adoption of virtual health—a method of enabling continuous, connected care via digital and telecommunication technologies. Virtual health goes beyond simple video visits and has the capability to complement to in-person care.
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Author: Dr. Ken, Deloitte Consulting LLP
This posting originally appeared on the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions “A view from the Center” blog. Copyright © 2018 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.