I live in very large state with a lot of sparsely populated areas. To give you an idea of how big, you would have to drive for 8 hours to cross from the north to the south end of my state. And about 5 hours to drive from the west to the east.
We have several big cities, but also a lot of tiny towns - the kind of towns where they are so small that they don't have stop lights.
Once, I was traveling on the interstate near a small town and I noticed the other drivers suddenly putting on their brakes. I couldn't see what was going on until I got closer, and then I saw that the farmer's cows had broken through the fence and were loose on the interstate. The highway patrol was trying to keep them out of the traffic lanes until they could get the rancher to come on horse back.
So when we have these tiny towns that are far away from hospitals and clinics, how can they get help?
Enter Telemedicine and Telehealth. The FCC says:
"Telemedicine can be defined as using telecommunications technologies to support the delivery of all kinds of medical, diagnostic and treatment-related services usually by doctors. For example, this includes conducting diagnostic tests, closely monitoring a patient's progress after treatment or therapy and facilitating access to specialists that are not located in the same place as the patient."
Sounds a little confusing, but let's break it down.
Maybe you had to drive several hours to see a specialist (which meant taking time off work), and spent a lot on gas money, and maybe even had to get a hotel to stay overnight. Or it's time for a follow up appointment, but you can't afford to take more time off work.
But, you could go to your doctor's office, and they could have network set up where our regular doctor can communicate with a specialist. They have special medical equipment that allows the specialist to hear your lungs or heart - from your regular doctor's office!
This video explains it a little better. It's using technology to connect you with a doctor.
There are also a lot of websites and apps that let you talk to a doctor over the computer, or on your phone. You may be so sick that you can't drive yourself to the doctor's office. But, you can talk to them using the camera on your computer, or your phone camera. They can do a "virtual" visit, diagnose you, and even send a prescription to your pharmacy.
So, if you live in a rural area - or are too busy or sick to be able to drive to your doctor's office, check online and see what might be available for you.
You never know when it might come in handy!