Last week I read with great joy that the big mobile networks and the UK government are finally going to try to improve the mobile phone networks in rural parts of the UK. Rather shockingly 1/3 of the UK has patchy or non-existent mobile reception! Unbelievable.
Sadly I am currently part of that 1/3 of the population. I recently moved back to rural Suffolk and after years of having great mobile reception suddenly find myself in a situation where I have to start giving people my landline number because I cannot guarantee I will receive mobile calls. Along with this dodgy mobile reception I have also had to contend with far slower internet connection that I have grown accustomed to living in a city.
This is sadly an issue for many rural residents in the UK and other countries. While city residents have been able to make full use of the latest innovations in technology often their rural counterparts have not. When it comes to patient care this is a huge issue as often it is precisely those rural residents who are in the most need of digital health innovations, such as telehealth. Rural patients often have issues such as large geographic distances to receive care or lower access to healthcare professionals. In our village for example we have been short of a GP for quite some time, which often means months of waiting to get a basic appointment.
Times are however changing, as this latest news shows. Mobile and internet connections are improving meaning that ever more patients have access to digital health solutions without being hampered by low connectivity issues. The next hurdle however is to ensure that healthcare providers, such as the NHS, keep up by providing digitally compatible services and solutions. These providers also need to make full use of technology to address some of the other issues facing rural and less well served patients such as lack of access to doctors, especially specialists and diagnostics. Patients should not need to wait weeks and months for appointments and results when technology exists to reduce these timelines. That issue however deserves a whole separate blog post about it!