Access to Emerging Technologies and Telehealth Intervention Modality Preferences in Rural Patients

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Health and Technology





The importance of telehealth strategies in addressing the health needs of rural residents has been well documented. A core problem in enacting telehealth strategies for patient education in rural settings, however, is a lasting perception that rural residents do not have access to, comfort with, or willingness to use varying emerging technologies. The current study was undertaken to simultaneously investigate access to technologies, comfort with technologies, and willingness to participate in technology-based interventions among high-need rural clinical populations. A sample of 199 patients was recruited at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the rural South using convenience sampling. Participants completed a battery of assessments addressing technology access, use, and comfort as well as likelihood of participating in intervention modalities. Access to technologies among this underserved group was remarkably high; rural patients reported having high levels of access (near or above 50%) for all technologies assessed except for mp3 players. Comfort with using technologies was even higher, and participants reported being most likely to participate in programs taking place at a doctor’s office or in a church. The most likely technology to be embraced for interventions was interactive DVDs. The current study indicates that access to and comfort with emerging technologies is strong among highly underserved patients. Because of their ability to address transportation, access, and privacy concerns in rural settings, technology-based interventions (particularly those using DVDs or texting or delivered at a doctor’s office or church) should be developed and tested specifically for rural populations.


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