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Region 4 News July 19th, 2024
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Nov

02

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A Telehealth Visit in a Rural Public Library? Conference Presenters Say It’s Possible

Posted in: #CC/Academic List, #Health Interest List, #Health Sciences List, #Public/K-12 List, All Members


Despite concerns over issues like broadband access and privacy, rural public libraries potentially can provide secure telehealth access at their locations, said the presenters of one session at the recent Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference.

In fact, at least three library systems in the country have launched projects that provide some form of telehealth access to those in rural communities, said Pamela DeGuzman, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. DeGuzman, along with Nick Martin from the Delaware Division of Libraries and University of Virginia undergraduate student Setareh Abooali, presented A Beginner’s Guide to Implementing Telehealth in Rural Libraries for the online audience of the hybrid conference, which took place Oct. 20-23.

Public library access to telehealth in rural areas has the potential of promoting health equity by allowing patrons with limited broadband opportunities greater flexibility in consulting healthcare providers who may be miles away, especially for routine visits.

Resources needed for telehealth access in the library may be daunting for a rural library but a drop in the bucket for a regional healthcare system partnering with the library, DeGuzman said. However, there still needs to be more clarity around some issues challenging telehealth access in public libraries, most notably how to address HIPAA privacy requirements, she said.

In Delaware, Martin spearheaded a project with ChristianaCare Center for Virtual Health to provide telehealth kiosks in three rural libraries. The enclosed and soundproof kiosks allow for private conversations over a wireless tablet device and are supported by “navigators” stationed at the library who can also help patrons with social services. An ultraviolet light helps sanitize the kiosk between uses.

The program also offers lendable devices and works with a traveling nurse. Martin explains the kiosks in this Delaware Libraries video.

On a less-elaborate scale, the Pottsboro Area Library in Texas outfitted a telehealth room in cooperation with the University of North Texas Health Science Center and funded by NNLM Region 3. A telehealth program also exists in a non-rural setting at the Dayton Metro Library in Ohio.

DeGuzman is interested in contacting libraries that have worked on public access to telehealth. You can reach her at prb7y@virginia.edu.

George Strawley, M.L.I.S., works on providing consumer-level health information and programs through libraries as well as on the planning and implementation of funding aimed at addressing health disparities. A former librarian in both the public and community college settings, he is now based at the University of Utah.

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