How Technology in Healthcare Influences Rural America

When looking at how technology has a major influence on healthcare, a lot of the discussion tends to be on how it impacts metropolitan areas.  However, despite not having the same resources as a metropolitan location would, rural areas are also influenced by technology within healthcare.  According to author Darrell West, rural America is starting to feel better thanks to the influences that technology has on healthcare.

What is Rural America?

When it comes to defining what rural America is, there are numerous ways of describing this according to the federal definition of this term.  Using the department of Agriculture definition of rural, it is any place with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, and not located adjacent to an urban area.  This implies that rural areas would not have the same access to certain resources normally, which in many cases, would include efficient healthcare; however, Darrell West feels that technology has opened the doors for receiving proper healthcare within these areas.


How Healthcare Technology is Making Rural Areas Get Better

Several days ago, Fox Business spoke with author Darrell West of The Future of Work who said that because of technology, healthcare is becoming easier to access to those that live in rural areas.  During an interview last week on Fox Business, West explained how patients living in small towns can gain access to urban physicians that are trained in the latest expertise using video conferences.  One of the things that keeps West busy is being the director of the center for technology innovation at Brookings Institution.

The unique challenges in providing proper healthcare to rural areas is nothing new and it is fortunate that others have attempted to resolve this issue with achieving positive results.  Last year, writer Allison Suttle posted an article in the Harvard Business Review in which she discussed how technology was being used to provide healthcare in rural locations. 

Suttle put a spotlight on Sanford Health, which is one of the biggest rural health-care-delivery systems, by providing some of the ways they have tackled this challenge successfully.  They have leveraged an array of technologies that provides high-value care to a population of roughly two-million that is dispersed throughout the Dakotas that covers three-hundred-thousand square miles.

Other examples include their commitment to data transparency, adopting a single EMR (Electronic Medical Record) platform, development of enterprise-wide departments and embraced telehealth technologies.


West points out that while healthcare may not be the quickest to put out the latest advancements of technology, he comments on progress that has been made which includes how remote devices are being used keep track of a patient’s vital signs and then transferring that data to their physicians.

The Downside of Technology in Healthcare

Sadly, practically everything has both an upside and downside to it and introducing technology to healthcare is no different.  While West admits introducing technology that includes artificial intelligence could improve the delivery of healthcare to those who can benefit from it, he points out that certain parts of the workforce in the United States could suffer.  According to West, “of course, that worries people on the jobs front, in terms of these technologies are going to take jobs.  There are going to be new jobs created – we’re going to need new data scientists, but many Americans don’t have the skills. It could be a rough transition.”


Those who are interested in watching the video of West discussing the impact of technology on the job market, healthcare and retail can check it out here.