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Rural Health Information Hub

Technology Considerations

Integrating technology into transportation programs can support all aspects of a program, from marketing and service delivery to data management and optimum route development. Investing in technology resources can improve the efficiency of transportation programming and can lessen or even eliminate the work load of personnel. Oftentimes, technology integration can have a high upfront cost, but over time it can lead to cost savings.

Common types of technology used for transportation programs include:

  • Telehealth refers to the use of videoconferencing, the internet, streaming media services or other related software or programs to support long-distance delivery of healthcare and related public health services. Telehealth services in rural communities can be an effective means of overcoming the transportation barrier individuals experience when accessing medical care.
  • A geographic information system (GIS) is used for the analysis of geographic data. It can be used to develop routes for fixed route transportation systems, visualize high usage areas for demand response transportation systems, or identify road intersections or blocks to enact traffic calming measures. Open source GIS software is available, as well as other software that can be purchased.
  • Ride-sharing applications coordinate transportation services between those who have a transportation need and the drivers, whether volunteers or paid, who are available to provide a ride at the time of the request. These applications are generally meant for mobile phone use. It is important to consider the additional costs associated with developing the application and the cost to the user for the service before implementing this program. Similar applications related to coordinating transportation options for users can also enhance an existing program or service.
  • Drone use is a novel method of overcoming access and availability issues to healthcare supplies and pharmaceuticals. It has recently been used in a rural area of Virginia by the Health Wagon program.

Resources to Learn More

Drone-Aided Healthcare Services for Patients with Chronic Diseases in Rural Areas
Describes two types of models for integrating drone use in healthcare services for people with chronic diseases living in rural areas. It also includes information on a cost-benefit analysis tool to understand the benefits of drone-aided delivery of healthcare services and supplies.
Author(s): Kim, S.J., Lim, G.J., Cho, J., & Côté, M. J.
Date: 4/2017

Rural Telehealth Research Center
Provides multiple resources for disseminating telehealth knowledge to rural program planners. Resources include journal publications, fact sheets on implementing telehealth services, and other research tools to support telehealth programs.

Transport Poverty Meets the Digital Divide: Accessibility and Connectivity in Rural Communities
Covers key transportation and technology challenges and solutions in rural communities.
Author(s): Velaga, N. R., Beecroft, M., Nelson, J. D., Corsar, D., Edwards, P.
Location(s): Journal of Transport Geography, 21, 102-112
Date: 3/2012