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How Telehealth Turned Rural Medicine Upside Down

The pandemic-era push for more telehealth didn’t just bring a boost to health tech companies: It changed the way rural providers did business.

But as some policies that eased restrictions on telehealth are set to end a few months after the public health emergency comes to a close, doctors in large swaths of the country are worried about the future of the newfound avenues for care.

From obstetrics check-ins or surgery follow-ups to oncologist visits or primary care needs, virtual care meant residents in places with few providers had new access — not just to nearby doctors but also to specialists that may have been hours away.

Waits for some particular providers, like child psychiatrists, dropped dramatically in several states. And long travel times were nonexistent for those who could talk with their doctors from home.

Some visits require only a conversation about how a patient is feeling or a photo to show how an incision is healing, doctors said.

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