Adults who are aging in place need access to timely and appropriate medical care. However, when older adults live in remote places, additional foresight and coordination are required for them to get the healthcare they need. Older adults often need to see medical specialists who are more likely to be located in metropolitan cities. 65% of Health Professional Shortage Areas are in rural communities. This makes it challenge for older adults to receive the care they need within their own communities, especially if they have mobility impairments.
As older adults develop complex conditions, getting healthcare in their home can be beneficial. Telehealth is the term used to describe the delivery of healthcare, health information, or health education from a distance. More specifically, telehealth allows patients to receive necessary healthcare services and information using telecommunications technology. Home monitoring and supplemental home visits from nursing professionals are two examples of telehealth. Telehealth is used to increase communication between a patient and the medical system and can save travel time and money for both parties.
Challenges related to telehealth services in rural communities include Medicare reimbursement, availability of technology, and broadband internet access.
For more information about telehealth, see RHIhub's Telehealth Use in Rural Healthcare topic guide.
As older adults age, it may also be increasingly difficult for them to travel outside of their home to visit a doctor. Home healthcare plays an important role in helping older adults to age in place. Medicare.gov defines home healthcare as:
“a wide range of healthcare services that can be given in your home for an illness or injury.”
It is also typically less expensive, more convenient, and may be as effective as the care given by nursing homes or hospitals. The goal of home healthcare is to help patients get better by treating the illness or injury in their home and to regain independence.
However, rural residents often experience barriers to home healthcare access, one of which is home care workforce. Contributing factors include geographic isolation of many rural areas, limited transportation options, fewer training and educational opportunities, and the general shortage of home care workers.
Resources to Learn More
The Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver
The Medicaid-funded home and community-based services (HCBS) program works to provide a variety of services to Medicaid beneficiaries within their home or community. These programs serve targeted population groups, such as people with mental illnesses, intellectual or developmental disabilities, and/or physical disabilities and programs vary by state.
Telehealth Resource Centers
Highlights various regions within the United States that now receive services by Telehealth Resource Centers. This also has sample documents and descriptions of successful programs.