TQ TeleConnection- November 2018

USDA Report

Rural Individuals’ Telehealth Practices: An Overview

Peter L. Stenberg

Abstract: Telehealth—i.e., health services or activities conducted via phone, Internet, and other technologies—has emerged as a new way for consumers to meet their health care needs. The benefits of telehealth may be greater in rural areas, where remoteness and provider shortages may make accessing health care more difficult for rural residents. Using detailed 2015 household data, the report analyzes three basic telehealth activities as practiced by consumers age 15 or older: (1) online health research; (2) online health maintenance (communication with health providers, including communicating with medical practitioners, maintaining records, and paying bills); and (3) online health monitoring via devices that exchange data remotely with medical personnel. Rural residents were less likely than urban people to engage in the telehealth activities, with 17 percent of rural people conducting online health research, 7 percent engaging in online health maintenance, and 1.3 percent using online health monitoring (compared with 20 percent, 11 percent, and 2.5 percent of urban residents, respectively). Use of all of these telehealth activities increased among individuals with higher levels of education. Generally, use increased among individuals with higher household income, but income’s effect varied across the telehealth activities.