Challenges Hindering Mobile Health Adoption in Rural Areas of Calif.
Mobile health tools could increase health care access for many rural Californians, but patchy cellular networks and other issues have held back adoption of such technology, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Older Californians living in rural areas in 2007 were more likely to be obese or overweight than similar residents in urban and suburban areas, according to a 2011 study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy.
In addition, older rural residents also faced higher rates of diabetes, falls and heart disease, according to the study.
Meanwhile, residents in rural areas can have a hard time accessing health care because of provider shortages, according to the Times.
Benefits, Challenges of Mobile Health
Observers note that mobile health services could allow physicians to:
- Conduct at-home telehealth examinations;
- Send patients reminders about medication or exercise; and
- Send patients information on chronic disease management.
Mobile health tools also could allow rural residents to remotely track health metrics, such as blood pressure.
However, Earl Ferguson, a cardiologist and founder of the California Telehealth Network, said it is unlikely that mobile health use will become widespread in rural California anytime soon because current cellular service is unreliable. He said, "My cellphone works only intermittently" in rural areas.
Ferguson said Internet service at rural hospitals also can be undependable, adding, "I've had the telemedicine system go down over shared DSL because someone was watching Netflix."
In addition, Tim Donovan -- vice president of legislative affairs for the Competitive Carriers Association, a trade group that represents rural mobile carriers -- noted that providing mobile service for rural residents often is not very lucrative for cellular companies.
Meanwhile, Lee Barron, CFO and former CEO at Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine, said rural residents are unlikely to readily adopt mobile health. "It has to do with the type of people who live here -- they're here because they don't want to be ruled by a phone and a clock and other people," he said.
Barron added that many rural residents cannot afford a mobile phone (Brown, Los Angeles Times, 12/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.