Smart technology and artificial intelligence are filling healthcare gaps in rural areas

(News Nation) – There are few hospitals for the 14,000 residents of Atoka County, Oklahoma. There are few primary care physicians to identify illnesses early, pharmacies to manage chronic illnesses or trauma centers for emergencies. If you need to see a specialist, you may have to drive for hours.

Atoka County is one of thousands of counties across the United States that lack adequate health infrastructure. More than 80% of counties in the United States – where a third of the population lives – are considered “health care deserts”.

And living in a home can be risky.

Residents of these provinces are more likely to die of cancer, pregnancy complications, heart disease and many other diseases that depend on timely treatment. They are more likely to suffer treatment for drug addiction or mental illness. They are more likely to be poor, elderly, and uninsured.

However, these communities are also the source of some of the most innovative solutions in healthcare today.

Hotspot library

How it works: Oklahoma State University Extension partnered with 19 Rural IPO lending libraries, including Atoka Province. Participants check the devices for up to two weeks at a time, and they can use the devices to access telehealth appointments. Others report using hotspots to find jobs, access education, and connect with family and friends — all of which contribute to mental health.

What this solves: The lack of fast internet is a major barrier to participating in modern life, especially in rural areas where people may have to drive for hours to see a doctor in person. Just 70% of rural Oklahoma They have widespread reach, and there are at least 12 counties with less than 50% reach.

Proof of success: Over the course of three years, each library loaned out about 150 devices annually, and recipients reported a 95% satisfaction rate with the program. In one town of just over 2,000 people, the library’s six hotspots were checked more than 600 times.

Limitations: There are still large areas in the western part of the state without participating libraries. A two-week schedule may limit telehealth delivery in the long term.

Children’s digital headphones

How it works: At four Mercy Children’s Telemedicine Clinics in Kansas and Missouri, Tech Specialists can examine children virtuallyUsing technology to take their vitals, listen to breathing sounds, examine the eyes, nose, or ears, and perform skin examinations under magnification. There are trained nurses in the room with patients who come in person to their local clinic. Some long-term patients have been fitted with devices so they can attend their appointments in their own homes.

What this solves: Missouri has some Top rated children’s hospitals in the country, yet it is located on the fringes of the state, in the middle of St. Louis and Kansas City.

“The high demand for pediatric subspecialty providers and the constraints many families face with regard to transportation, time off from work and school, and finances have made it clear that traditional models of pediatric outpatient care were not sustainable,” Morgan Waller, director of the pediatrics business, tells SELF. After and operations at the mercy of children, he said Information technology and healthcare news.

Proof of success: Mercy Kansas City Children has diverted 65% of appointments to telemedicine during the pandemic. The hospital also says that their patients’ parents reported less financial stress because they didn’t need to travel long distances for care.

Limitations: Although this system can help increase the number of patients seen by specialists in a single day, it still requires hiring specially trained nurses to supervise on-site appointments. Recruitment of nurses in rural areas remains challenging.

Smart ultrasound devices

How it works: Artificial intelligence systems are currently under studyDr Breast cancer can be identified or benign cysts by combining the two common ways humans read mammograms: digital mammography and 3D ultrasound. using a file An AI system that learns over time It can reduce examination costs and help radiologists feel more confident in their readings.

What this solves: About one in 11 radiologists’ jobs remains unfilled in the United States, with a much higher percentage in rural areas. “There is great potential in rural areas, where radiologists are very scarce and there are needs to provide human resources for medical centers,” said the AI ​​system. Lingyun Bao, one of the researchers studying artificial intelligence and radiology.

Proof of success: These AI programs show amazing accuracy, with a recent study showing a high percentage of true positives without an increase in false negatives – On par with experienced radiologists In a recent study.

Limitations: Currently, these machines are designed to improve the accuracy of detecting cancer in high-density breasts, which are difficult for radiologists to read. Bringing these machines into “standalone” use in rural hospitals will still require specialized training.

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