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Opinion: Telehealth Deserves More Attention in Alcorn County

By Josh Mitchell

Corinth Today News Editor

A big issue nationally, especially for rural areas, is telehealth, which lets patients use the Internet to see doctors over long distances.

There has been “rapid growth” in telehealth nationally as people with high-deductible health plans seek the lowest cost of care, a report at healthit.gov states. Convenience and the rise in mobile technology are driving an increase in telehealth, the report adds.

Mitchell

With banking, college, grocery shopping and so many other vital life issues being efficiently handled online it makes sense that some visits to the doctor could also be done this way.

I did an initial job interview online once over videoconference and wore a suit and tie just as I would have during an in-person interview. They wanted to see me in person for the second interview, and I was offered the job and accepted. It was convenient handling the job interview this way since I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the job interview was at a newspaper about 13 hours away in the St. Louis area.

Similarly, a person facing a health issue could avoid traveling hours to another state and instead see a doctor online. Of course, just like many other issues in the 21st Century economy, telehealth is dependent on the availability of high-speed Internet.

“Unfortunately, rural areas remain less connected to reliable high-speed Internet today than metropolitan areas and have lower usage rates compared with urban areas,” a recent USDA report stated. “As a result, a wide array of digital services and activities — from e-commerce to telehealth to digital learning— are becoming an increasingly important feature for a prosperous rural life.”

We live in an aging society. Due to aging Baby Boomers, older people are expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history in about 17 years, the U.S. Census Bureau announced in March. By 2035, there are expected to be 78 million people in the United States 65 and older compared to 76.4 million under 18, the agency said. One in five U.S. residents will be retirement age in 2030.

There are a number of ways that telehealth is facilitated, one of which is live video-conferencing between a patient and doctor. Another option is to record information about health issues and then forward it to a doctor. Mobile devices can be used to receive texts about health education and disease outbreaks.

The impact that telehealth and telemedicine will have on Corinth and Alcorn County is worth exploring.

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