Care coordination is a difficult job under any circumstances. That said, working in rural areas can be especially challenging.
Complex patients living outside of city centers face the same health issues as their urban counterparts. Unfortunately, their difficulties are often compounded by their distance from healthcare resources.
If you’re a rural care coordinator, narrowing this distance is one of the keys to providing your complex clients with the best possible care. Luckily, digital technology offers you the tools to provide high-quality, long distance coordination. But first, you need to identify the barriers standing in your way.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the biggest issues care coordinators face in rural regions. We’ll delve into the additional challenges complex clients present—and tell you how the right technology can help.
1) Reduced nursing availability
In many cases, patients with several chronic conditions must worry about numerous prescriptions, appointments, and sets of self-care instructions. As a care coordinator, you can help by connecting your clients to the right resources. But you’re just one piece of the puzzle.
Nurses can help by administering medications and walking patients through procedures such as basic wound care. While physician and specialist expertise is required in some cases, nurses are often the right professionals to evaluate symptoms and explain future courses of action.
Unfortunately, the demand for rural nurses is very real. Due to shortages, it’s not always easy to ensure that complex care patients receive the ongoing care they need.
What can be done to solve this problem? In Ontario, the implementation of more nursing stations run by registered nurses (RN) and nurse practitioners (NP) is one solution. The Registered Nursing Association of Ontario (RNAO) has laid out a full set of recommendations.
One thing is certain. Care coordinators should find ways to help ensure that rural patients receive the nursing support they need—today.
2) Communication difficulties with patients
When clients live rurally, it can be difficult to connect with them. Knowing you’re just a short drive away can put a client at ease. In contrast, as the kilometers between you add up, the quality of your relationship can deteriorate.
Unfortunately, picking up the phone to check in or answer a question isn’t always sufficient.
It’s impossible to pick up on visual cues that convey how your client is really doing over the phone, and showing the empathy you feel can also be a challenge. To provide high-quality support, it’s important for you as a care coordinator to be present.
That said, you can’t always be there in person. But video-calling technology can help. With an intuitive touchscreen app, all clients—including those with low levels of technical skill—can have face-to-face meetings with you, wherever you are.
The same technology can help with nursing availability. With the right app, nurses can check in with patients and coach them through self-care activities via video. They can also send and follow up on medication reminders.
3) Unreliable cellular coverage
In many rural areas, cell phone coverage is far from perfect. And the consequences can be serious.
Consider the following story. In 2016, a car collided with a half-ton truck between the Saskatchewan communities of Black Lake and Stony Rapids. The accident occurred just weeks after cellular coverage became available in the area. As a result, a passerby was able to call for help. But imagine what could have happened if coverage hadn’t been available.
Depending on your service provider, it’s entirely possible that your coverage will be spotty in some rural regions. If this happens, you could be putting yourself in a hazardous situation.
Of course, it’s not just about keeping yourself safe. What if one of your clients requires sudden medical assistance, and you can’t make the call? And consider the inconvenience of being unable to communicate crucial health information to the nurses, physicians, or specialists who will act on it later.
As a care coordinator, there’s not much you can do about existing cellular networks—apart from advocate for better coverage. But in cases where coverage is inconsistent, you can use an app like Aetonix’s aTouchAway to contact and securely share information with other care professionals.
4) Long distances from hospitals
It’s an unfortunate reality. Complex patients are far more likely to be hospitalized than those in the general population. If you’re a care coordinator, the records you keep will take on new importance when a complex client is transferred from one care environment to another.
Let’s say it’s necessary for your client to be transported from her rural community to a hospital in the city. The professionals who care for her will be of greater assistance if they have access to her up-to-date medical history and care plan.
Communication is key. For this reason, there’s great value in a digital app that simplifies information-sharing among circles of care. Whatever solution you choose, be sure it enables quick communication across these circles during care transitions.
5) Poor driving conditions
In recent years, questions have been raised regarding rural road design in Canada. Add high speeds and unpredictable weather conditions, and driving can quickly become hazardous. If rural travel is a part of your job description, you may be at an increased risk for a collision.
Of course, accidents aren’t the only concern when it comes to driving. In urban environments, efficient city services help commuters avoid major holdups. But when your clients live rurally, a snowstorm or road closure can cut your time with them short.
Video conferencing can ensure your clients get the time they deserve with you while making your job safer. When driving conditions are less than ideal, you don’t have to venture out onto rural roads in order to connect. You can provide any client with the benefits of a face-to-face visit using technology that’s intuitive to you both. With the aTouchAway app, it’s simple.
Feature image courtesy of grace_kat