Access to high-quality healthcare is a daunting challenge in rural areas due to geographic constraints, limited resources, and social determinants of health. Moreover, while 20% of Americans live in rural areas, fewer than 10% of America’s physicians practice in these areas.
Sanford Health, the largest rural healthcare system in the US, recognized this critical issue and embarked on a mission to improve healthcare access for its rural members. Through a strategic partnership with TytoCare, Sanford Health has revolutionized healthcare delivery in rural communities, bringing high-quality virtual care to patients’ doorsteps.
Sanford Health encompasses an extensive network of medical centers, clinics, health plan members, and healthcare professionals. Each year, Sanford Health serves millions of patients, offering outpatient visits, surgeries, and emergency care. Sanford Health’s steadfast commitment to enhancing rural healthcare access has propelled the health system to seek innovative solutions to reach underserved communities.
Rural Americans often face significant healthcare disparities. Limited access to medical facilities, combined with the need to travel long distances for healthcare, results in delayed treatments and poorer health outcomes. The dwindling number of clinicians who practice medicine in rural areas further exacerbates the problem, creating healthcare deserts across the country.
As Bill Gassen, Sanford Health’s CEO and President, explained, “While the issues that Sanford Health is facing are not unique to rural healthcare, they are more pronounced in rural communities. The top challenges that we see, day in and day out, are around sustainability, health equity, and access.”
Sanford Health set out to address these challenges by identifying key objectives for its virtual care solution:
A Convenient and High-Quality Healthcare Experience
Sanford Health aims to provide a seamless, convenient, and high-quality healthcare experience for both patients and providers.
Overcoming Infrastructure Limitations
Recognizing the unique challenges posed by rural infrastructure, Sanford Health sought a solution that could operate effectively despite these limitations.
Broad Geographical Coverage
Sanford Health is committed to extending healthcare access to rural areas, regardless of zip code.
Enhanced Diagnostic Capabilities
The health system sought to empower its clinicians to perform data-driven and robust physical exams for virtual care patients, enabling primary and specialist care without the need for extensive travel.
Sanford Health’s partnership with TytoCare proved to be a game-changer. By integrating TytoCare’s innovative technology into its virtual care offering, Sanford Health has expanded its reach into rural communities. Sanford Health implemented a hub-and-spoke model, with TytoCare devices deployed across over 80 rural clinics and critical access hospitals in multiple states.
This setup allowed patients to connect remotely with healthcare providers, who could then perform live remote physical exams using TytoCare’s technology. The results were shared in real-time, enabling more accurate diagnoses and specialized care without difficult travel to urban centers.
Working with TytoCare has yielded remarkable results for Sanford Health. TytoCare facilitated the standardization of remote care equipment for the health system. Sanford Health ensured that every supported location had access to TytoCare devices, enhancing the capabilities of virtual clinicians and improving access to primary and specialist care.
With approximately 180 TytoCare devices in clinics, Sanford Health has conducted around 65,000 remote visits, saving an astonishing 25.3 million miles in patient travel. This translates into 1-3 hours of saved travel time each way, offering convenience without compromising on quality of care.
The collaboration with TytoCare has not only allowed Sanford Health to meet its program objectives, it has exceeded them. Patients who once faced the challenge of traveling for hours to receive care can now connect with clinicians in real-time, enabling comprehensive exams without leaving their communities. Specialty care has become more accessible, providing patients with second opinions and consultations with specialists without the need to travel to distant centers.
This partnership has empowered patients to seek medical care when necessary, while providers can make informed diagnoses and treatment decisions. Bill Gassen reiterated that using the right virtual tools has the potential to elevate the care experience, strengthening the connection between patients and providers and increasing the potential to improve health outcomes. These solutions can better ensure health continuity across different care settings with greater convenience and affordability.
Sanford Health’s partnership with TytoCare has not only improved access to care for rural Americans; it has set a precedent for the future of healthcare delivery. With innovative technology, dedicated professionals, and strategic planning, Sanford Health has successfully bridged the healthcare access gap in rural America.
As Sanford Health continues to invest in virtual care, the future holds the promise of convenient, high-quality healthcare for all, right in the places we call home. Sanford Health remains steadfast in its mission to be Here for All and Here for Good, ensuring that healthcare disparities in rural America become a thing of the past.