National Institutes of Health pathways to prevention workshop: Improving rural health through telehealth-guided provider-to-provider communication

Mary Wakefield, Jayashri Sankaranarayanan, Joanne Mather Conroy, Sara McLafferty, Robert Moser, Velma Mc Bride Murry, Rebecca Slifkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Rural communities often face chronic challenges of high rates of serious health conditions coupled with inadequate access to health care services—challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One strategy with the potential to mitigate these problems is the increased use of telehealth technology. A feature of telehealth applications—collaboration between health care providers for consultation and other purposes—referred to herein as Rural Provider-to-Provider Telehealth (RPPT), introduces important expertise that may not exist locally in rural communities. Literature indicates that RPPT is operationalized through many methods with an array of purposes. While RPPT is a promising strategy that brings additional expertise to patient-centered rural care delivery, there is limited evidence addressing important considerations, including how patient access and outcomes, provider satisfaction and performance, and payment may be affected by its use. Methods: Recognizing the significant potential of RPPT and the need for more information associated with its use, the National Institutes of Health convened a Pathways to Prevention (P2P) workshop to further understand RPPT's effectiveness and impact on improving health outcomes in rural settings. The P2P initiative, supported by several federal health agencies, engaged rural health stakeholders and experts to examine four key questions, identify related knowledge gaps, and provide recommendations to advance understanding of the use and impact of RPPT. Results: Included in this report is a description of the process used to generate information about RPPT, the identification of key knowledge gaps, and specific recommendations to further build needed evidence. Discussion: The emerging use of RPPT is an important tool for bridging gaps in access to care that impacts rural populations. However, to fully understand the value and effects of RPPT, new research is needed to fill the knowledge gaps identified in this report. Additionally, this report should help engage providers, payors, and policymakers interested in supporting evidence-informed RPPT practice, policy, and payment, with the ultimate aim of improving access to health care and health status of rural communities in the United States and worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Telemedicine and Telecare
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Provider telehealth
  • provider-to-provider communication
  • rural telehealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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