Navigating Hurdles in Rural Telehealth Access

Agora-Director-Ranganath-JagannathImagine losing the connection during a crucial conversation regarding your test results, or not being able to have a seamless video call with your child’s physician. This is a frustrating reality for millions of rural Indians. While access to healthcare has changed in many places due to high-speed internet, rural regions are frequently left behind.

Challenges in rural telehealth

The delivery of healthcare in rural locations is hampered by several factors, such as demographic profiles, wide geographic coverage, and unreliable transportation. Although telehealth has the potential to give people access to high-quality treatment, its widespread adoption in rural and distant places has been hindered by a lack of seamless and good internet connectivity.

According to a report, over 60% of individuals from rural regions in India opted to leave their state and move to metropolitan cities to receive treatment for serious illnesses.

The primary cause of this significant disparity is internet quality. While high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular services are considered standard for most Indians, many still lack reliable internet access for essential services like telehealth visits.

The impact of poor internet connectivity in rural regions is substantial. Patients trying to access virtual care with inadequate internet quality frequently encounter issues such as:

  • Inability to connect to a doctor or health care provider
  • Dropped calls
  • Video and audio freezes
  • Severe lag and delay in audio and video

These issues hinder clear communication and the ability of providers to see patients via video, ultimately reducing the effectiveness of telehealth. If not properly addressed, these problems can prevent accurate diagnoses or, worse, lead to misdiagnosis. Such consequences can significantly impact those who need access to quality healthcare.

How can technology address these challenges?

It is critical for healthcare professionals aiming to serve rural communities to think outside the box and come up with new, effective methods for improving access to medical care. Another option is to enhance the quality of audio and video communication.

With the use of more recent codecs (such as VP9), real-time video technology may now support lower bitrates and resolutions while still delivering high-quality video feeds in low bandwidth settings. Further developments in visual communication, such as packet loss reduction techniques, perceptual video coding, and device optimisations, can significantly lower bandwidth needs without sacrificing clarity and fluency.

Expanding audio access to anyone with a functional landline or cell phone also means supporting a PSTN (Publicly Switched Telephone Network) integration that permits patients to use a phone to participate in a telehealth session. Additionally, telehealth solutions must work with all kinds of devices—old and new—including wearables like smartwatches.

Implementing a telehealth technology vendor with experience of servicing patients in isolated rural areas can be advantageous for healthcare professionals. To enable seamless, dependable interactions anywhere, telehealth solutions from ecosystem partners such as Agora are making it simple for providers to include this cutting-edge video and audio calling technology straight into their website or mobile application via an SDK (Software Development Kit). Designed with real-time video and speech in mind, Agora’s real-time network makes communication possible even in the event of subpar local network circumstances.

The healthcare sector has a unique opportunity to address the issue of rural healthcare access by putting the needs of the patient first, thanks to these technological advancements.

Authored by:- Mr. Ranga Jagannath, Senior Director at Agora

(The views expressed in this article are by – Mr. Ranga Jagannath, Senior Director at Agora. doesn’t own any responsibility for it.)

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