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Commentary: Rural Public Libraries as Telehealth Providers During Covid-19 (Daily Yonder)

 

By Craig Settles, October 22, 2020, Daily Yonder.

A public library in Pottsboro, Texas, offered telehealth services to its patrons throughout the pandemic despite broadband access issues. Now, it could become a blueprint for a national rural network of libraries providing access to telehealth.

A couple of years ago I wrote several pieces advocating for libraries to become part of telehealth hubs.,

I argued that libraries reach out and touch virtually everyone in their communities across the entire economic spectrum and that they should explore partnering with innovative medical practices and insurance companies to offer basic services to their patrons.

At the time, some libraries were lending mobile hotspots to their patrons for several weeks up to  a year. Surgery patients could borrow hotspots and use a telehealth option to facilitate recovery and home healthcare while they got back on their feet. Although the promise was there,the technology didn’t take off with other libraries.

If there’s one thing the Covid-19 pandemic accomplished, it would be highlighting how inadequate broadband is within many communities and how it inhibits telehealth from reaching rural areas. But the pandemic has also accelerated innovative thinking about telehealth and libraries.

“In the past couple of months we’ve had some behavioral health, weight loss management, and  dermatology appointments,” Connery said. “Somebody did four weeks of C-section followup treatments.  Another person … was acutely vulnerable to Covid. Many of our patients don’t have the Internet at home.”

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Please see attached journal article for more details.

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