Community clinics say the easing of restrictions on telehealth during the pandemic has made it possible for health workers to connect with hard-to-reach patients via a phone call — people who are poor, elderly or live in remote areas, and don’t have access to a computer or cellphone with video capability.
Caswell County, where William Crumpton works, runs along the northern edge of North Carolina and is a rural landscape of mostly former tobacco farms and the occasional fast-food restaurant.
“There are wide areas where cellphone signals are just nonexistent,” Crumpton says. “Things like satellite radio are even a challenge.”
Crumpton, who grew up in this area, is CEO of Compassion Health, a federally funded community health center. The county has no hospital or emergency room. And for much of the pandemic, about half of the center’s patients could only be reached the old fashioned way: a basic voice call on a phone landline.