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Rural vs. urban telehealth: a look at the stats


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Over the past decade, telehealth adoption has slowly risen. But the global health crisis that unfolded in the spring of 2020 rapidly accelerated the adoption of telehealth services when it became clear that it would be far safer to hold virtual appointments to the greatest extent possible.

The rapid adoption of telehealth services raises an interesting, critical question: what differences exist between telehealth adoption in rural areas versus urban areas? As telehealth adoption continues, more data becomes available for analysis and patterns are beginning to emerge regarding where the similarities and differences are in rural and urban telehealth use.

The need for better understanding of telehealth adoption rates

In 2020, a coalition of healthcare organizations, non-profits, members of academia, and tech companies created a coalition to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group dubbed itself the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition.

One area of concern for the Coalition is telehealth adoption, specifically in rural areas which have typically been underserved by any kind of healthcare. Between July and August 2020, researchers from the Coalition interviewed 1,594 American doctors and other healthcare professionals from urban and rural areas to better understand telehealth adoption rates and barriers to adoption. They published the results of their research in November 2020.

Urban and rural providers have different rates of telehealth adoption. Here’s what you need to know.


What the research shows: Urban and rural telehealth adoption rates

One of the first questions researchers asked survey respondents was how long they had been using telehealth services:

Researchers examined how frequently providers used telehealth services before the public health crisis:

In addition, researchers looked at the number of visits telehealth providers averaged per week during the crisis:

The report also looked at how providers used telehealth services:

Researchers asked providers about their barriers to telehealth adoption as well:

Another area of interest for researchers was patient barriers to telehealth adoption:

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Originally published Apr 19, 2021, updated Apr 23, 2021

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