Over the past decade, some innovative health services that offer better access and quality of care for rural communities have begun to appear.
These innovative health-care models are the focus of RhPAP U Pillar IV – Rural Health Service Delivery.
The first section of this pillar, Innovative Service Models, highlights some of the novel rural health services that address concerns such as cost of service delivery, distance, and the unique challenges of attracting and retaining qualified health professionals in rural communities.
Rural residents may be familiar with mobile health services that screen for breast or prostate cancer, but there are many more innovative programs! For example:
- ECHO, a program where rural practitioners work with and learn from specialists to manage their patients’ chronic conditions
- the Indigenous Health Care Patient Navigator, a program that helps Indigenous peoples in Alberta finding the services they need
- the Community Paramedics Program, a house call program that serves rural seniors and helps prevent emergency department admission
The second section, Integrated Care, explores service models in Alberta that focus on care coordination between different health-care providers and services. This helps patients to have a more seamless care experience and avoids the risk of “falling through the cracks”. Good care coordination is particularly important when patients need to see a specialist or are admitted to a hospital. Alberta has some excellent examples of integrated care, such as Primary Care Networks and the Patient’s Medical Home.
The last section under Pillar IV is dedicated to Virtual Health. Virtual health, also called virtual care, is a broad term that describes the use of technology to provide health care to patients when a health professional and their patient are not in the same location. One example is real-time “virtual visits” between patients and health providers using videoconferencing, mobile apps or the telephone.
Many health professionals have started to offer virtual health services during the pandemic. Research has found that virtual health is safe, effective and convenient for patients. However, there are challenges to virtual health in rural areas such as access to required technology and variable internet services.
All three topics in this pillar highlight the challenges with rural health service delivery, and how these innovative service models can improve access and quality of care for rural residents.
Please continue to explore RhPAP U and send us your feedback!