Telemedicine to help with 24-hour operations at rural hospitals

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Hospitals, emergency rooms, and urgent cares in rural areas across the United States and Canada are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain 24 hour operations. On Prince Edward Island, a small hospital that recently had to restrict its hours of operation from 8AM-10PM is looking to telemedicine to provide 24 hour access to local residents again.

Health PEI, Prince Edward Island’s health system, is working with Kings County Memorial Hospital and local residents on the idea. A local business-man proposed the plan to launch a telemedicine pilot at the hospital to cover the overnight hours:

“The technology is available, is well-proven… We’re simply taking the best of technology that is available elsewhere in the world. If you become sick on the space station, you’re seen immediately by a doctor via telemedicine… I’d like to see the same services here in Montague.”

blog-telehealth-rural-hospitals When hospitals are forced to close during overnight hours it also places a burden on other neighboring hospitals that do remain open. Smaller hospitals see telemedicine as a way to ensure coverage for patients and keep their doors open, while larger hospitals see it as an opportunity and a way to reduce stress on their emergency departments.

Health PEI already uses telehealth technology (and has been for over a decade) to connect specialists with health systems across Canada. Some see telemedicine as a competitor to local urgent cares, hospitals and emergency rooms, when it could actually be a benefit to both the health care center and patients who need care.