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Last week, 215 patients were evacuated from a major medical center in New York City when its backup power supply failed during Hurricane Sandy. It was an eye-opener for those of us who live in urban areas and take our healthcare centers for granted. It's hard to imagine not having ready access to treatment for a common ailment or transportation to a qualified healthcare provider (HCP) for emergency care. In rural areas of the country, however, these difficulties can be common.
Rural areas with inadequate access to healthcare facilities and emergency services are also experiencing critical shortages of skilled healthcare workers. Stanford's Rural Health Fact Sheet tells us these disadvantages result in "higher morbidity and mortality rates compared to those of their urban counterparts." mHealth offers real solutions to help overcome these challenges.
Our country's physician shortage is compounded by inadequate funding for training qualified HCPs to fill the physician gap. Rural areas with geographic barriers, limited support and inadequate clinical resources are hit hard by this dilemma. Road and climate conditions multiply the disparities, making specialists, intensive care, preventive care or important follow-up visits all the more challenging for residents. The mHealth approach uses mobile solutions to link rural patients and HCPs with improved healthcare, timelier treatment and better outcomes.
In fact, the federal government so assuredly recognizes the ability of mHealth to transform patient care, the FCC is acting on mHealth Task Force recommendations to "harness the potential of mHealth to ensure that the U.S. delivers the highest quality of patient care with greater efficiency and lower costs than ever before." One of the FCC's actions will include modernizing the Rural Health Care Program, which focuses on enabling affordable broadband network connectivity for rural America and Indian Health Services.
The mHealth industry must continue to improve the integrated technology that allows rural clinicians to access vital information and answers. Whether it's real-time communications with trained specialists or fast access to diagnostic information, a device with the right apps can empower overworked clinicians in underserved areas to treat more patients, prevent suffering and save more lives. The power of mHealth extends to training medical staff and educating volunteer EMS responders on everything from invasive procedures to navigating childbirth to identifying rare skin conditions.
At Physicians Interactive, we've seen the tremendous impact mHealth access has in hard-to-reach regions through Health eVillages, our non-profit initiative that donates mobile phones and iPads pre-loaded with Skyscape medical reference technology to clinics in at-risk and developing regions across the globe. Health eVillages has recently expanded its reach to the U.S. by launching a pilot location in rural Louisiana. Now, critical health information such as drug interactions, dosages or treatment protocols will be in the hands of HCPs in this underserved area. It's another step toward improving the health of the nation through the full potential of mobile technology.
Sanjay Pingle is president of Skyscape and Physicians Interactive and has oversight of the combined pharma and eCommerce business. Prior to joining PI, he was co-founder and executive vicepPresident of Medsite, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical marketing firm named a market leader by Forrester, Jupiter Research and Frost & Sullivan.
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