Producers can visit their health-care provider and never get off the tractor 

Many of today’s farmers rely on technology. GPS applications are helping them get an extra row of crops on the same piece of land, or even work late into the night with precision.

“People may think of farmers as people who live far away from internet service and who have little interest in it,” said Dr. David Barbe, family medicine physician in Mountain Grove, Mo., and head of the department of primary care at Mercy Springfield Communities. “And while it’s true that internet service can be spotty, I can tell you most of my patients who farm carry smart phones and are tech savvy. That can be a real asset when it comes to their health.”

Most health systems these days offer some virtual health care services, which may vary by your location that enables patients to touch a button to order a prescription refill, check on test results, or even have a video visit with their local doctor. 

“There are some things we’ll need to see you in the office to properly diagnose,” Dr. Barbe explained. “But there are times when we just need to see and hear you on camera. You can stop your tractor, call us up on the app, and we’ll get you moving again in minutes. During a busy growing season, not having to take time away from the farm is money in the bank.”

“During a busy growing season, not having to take time away from the farm is money in the bank.”

— Dr. David Barbe

The use of virtual visits skyrocketed during the pandemic, as patients tried to stay home as much as possible. “We ramped up quickly because it’s what our patients needed us to do,” Dr. Barbe said. “Now, we have the capabilities in place and there’s no reason not to continue virtual visits if it’s more convenient for our patients.”

And it’s not just primary care. For those who live in rural communities, you may be able to “see” a specialist in your hometown, too. For example, a virtual consult can be lifesaving if you experience stroke symptoms, and your nearest hometown emergency room has access to a neurologist. Using high-tech cameras and information from the bedside team, they can order a clot-busting drug and reduce the risk of any permanent damage.

“We’re continually assessing how virtual care can augment what we already do at our regional hospitals,” said Valerie Davis, administrator for Mercy Hospital Aurora and Mercy Hospital Cassville. “We have access to virtual stroke specialists, and we offer virtual behavioral health services. We can also do sleep studies locally and have the specialist visit with the patient afterward via telehealth. It saves our patients time and money – they don’t have to drive for the best care.”

If you live in a rural area, now’s a good time to ask what virtual services your local doctor and hospital provide so you’ll know what’s available when you need it most.

Sonya Kullmann is the Media Relations and Communications Manager at Mercy. She can be reached at 417-820-2426


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