Mississippi’s telemedicine demand increases in rural communities

Mississippi’s telemedicine demand increases in rural communities

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Telemedicine has been a part of health in Mississippi for years, but in the last year, it’s gotten a robust workout due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before the pandemic in 2019, there were almost 12,000 telehealth visits. From 12,000 last year, it went up to 132,000. So that’s a 10-fold increase in telehealth visits in just the ambulatory setting,” said Chief Telehealth Officer Dr. Saurabh Chandra at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).

Chandra said the pandemic made it clear: patients need more care at home. For those with a chronic disease, the power of telemedicine can mean the difference between life and death.

“So how do we help the patient at home? You have these devices, blood pressure, glucose monitoring. You can be at home. It is transferred through Wi-Fi to the telehealth center,” said Chandra.

In a state with many rural pockets, what about the patient with no Wi-Fi?

“When we have patients in rural areas that we put on the monitoring devices, we send them a kit, a tablet that has sim devices so they can connect to the cellular network if they don’t have Wi-Fi.  So, we are trying to find means around that, but of course the challenges still remain.”

Despite challenges, Mississippi remains a national leader in telemedicine. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said it’s not for every situation, but he believes telemedicine is a fantastic tool.

“We should embrace it where it makes sense and where evidence shows us it’s gonna be effective.   We don’t need to slow it down. We need build on our success and take it to the next phase,” he explained.

UMMC is one of the only two federally designated Centers of Excellence in the country for telehealth.

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