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Common Medical School Interview Question #4

“What should be done about the shortage of medical specialists and adequate resources in rural settings?”

Access to health care services and resources continues to be the biggest issue for residents of rural areas. Of course, access means both access to a physician or nearby health center for regular treatment and access to health resources and information, such as public health advocacy. Insufficient funding is often the reason for disparities, but there are other factors. For example, some rural communities are extremely remote, lack the necessary infrastructure for a health center or suffer from a dearth of physicians and health professionals in the immediate area. It is common for patients in rural areas to forego regular health checkups for the sake of convenience or due to an absence of resources. In recent years, solutions such as telehealth appointments or mobile clinics have benefitted rural patients a great deal.

I think these solutions are viable, but they could go farther. With the technology available to us today, patients in rural areas could set up an online health profile with their doctor, where they would be able to attend to many of their regular health needs online or by phone. For instance, a patient could set appointments, request prescription renewals, or ask for advice or additional information via an online platform. This would reduce the need for in-person appointments for common ailments and treatment follow-up. Potentially serious concerns could be initially assessed online, and if necessary, patients could schedule an in-person visit with their physician through an online booking platform. Technology can save time when connecting physicians with their remote patients. An online communication platform also allows physicians to provide public health information and resources on common health concerns to their patients through, say, an email newsletter. 

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