Beyond adoption to sustained use: Telemedicine for rural communities

Academic Article


  • The objective of this paper is to identify factors that affect the sustained use of telemedicine in rural communities and to suggest possible ways to improve such utilization. We draw on innovation and network theory to develop hypotheses about conditions that will hinder or facilitate sustained use of telemedicine. Telemedicine systems are expected to achieve sustained use in communities with higher physician-to-population ratios, greater availability of nonphysician providers, and greater consumer knowledge of and support for telemedicine. Additionally, telemedicine is more likely to be used in settings where hospital medical staff structures use contractual arrangements that encourage the use of telemedicine or reimburse through capitated systems. Rural physicians are more likely to use telemedicine if they have previous experience in facilities that serve as telemedicine hubs and if they have strong relationships with physicians in a hub location or with local physicians who are supportive of telemedicine. Physicians whose primary offices are geographically closer to the remote telemedicine installation are more likely to order telemedicine consultations for their patients than are their counterparts further away. Also, telemedicine systems that are well managed and easy to use are more likely to achieve sustained utilization by rural physicians. These hypotheses should be considered by supporters, providers, and managers of telemedicine. A proactive approach to managing telemedicine networks, with an emphasis on the issues raised here, should help telemedicine achieve its potential, namely, improved access and enhanced quality and efficiency of health services in rural communities.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wells RS; Lemak CH
  • Start Page

  • 285
  • End Page

  • 293
  • Volume

  • 2
  • Issue

  • 4