Rural & remote digital care: challenge or opportunity?
In a world where digital technologies are at the forefront of everything we do, how much of a disadvantage are our remote communities really facing? Globally, we increasingly see mobile devices being used as a healthcare hub; we store information on ourselves daily, like activities, diet, exercise and sleep.…this trend is only set to increase! Although few are currently integrated into our NHS, the future is most likely to see more sophisticated mobile health apps. We are even beginning to see drones being tested to deliver healthcare packages to remote locations.
The key contributor to speeding up this process of digitisation is connectivity. We tested this strength of rural connectivity at a recent mountain biking event, where my team bared the weather conditions underneath Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands. The event participants were certainly exposed to the mountainous elements; however, there was indeed 4G mobile coverage all around the remote cycle route. The Highland & Islands region, which has some of our most challenging terrain in Scotland has committed to super fast fibre broadband. Even on Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain climbers are now able to access 4G wireless technology, from the base station at 5,200 metres high.
For my team and I this represents opportunity. Our mission is to achieve better results for the management of distance care. In a digital age where we have 4G coverage in the most austere environments why wouldn’t we be without mobile health solutions? But…for rural communities the digital world often remains a challenge. Many have higher poverty rates and large elderly populations.
The question is would these communities prefer to see “Dr Smith” face-to-face or pick up a smart phone and interact with their GP? Is it a misconception that they are not forwards thinking or digitally minded? Are these communities actually hungry for new innovations?
The challenge for remoteness is there are few digital solutions on the market today that are really developed specifically to address the delivery of care in a rural setting. Until this begins to change we will not only continue to see a rural / urban divide in the delivery of timely, effective care but we will continue to battle the digital integration barrier. MIME is a unique company committed to addressing remote care through mobile innovation.