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Article

Regional Heterogeneity of Application and Effect of Telemedicine in the Primary Care Centres in Rural China

by 1,2, 1,2, 1,2 and 1,2,*
1
School of Medicine and Health Management, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430030, China
2
Research Centre for Rural Health Service, Key Research Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences of Hubei Provincial Department of Education, Wuhan 430030, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4531; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124531
Received: 30 May 2020 / Revised: 16 June 2020 / Accepted: 18 June 2020 / Published: 24 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Healthcare: Telemedicine, Public eHealth, and Big Data)
The increasing concerns of the geographical maldistribution of medical resources have sparked worldwide interests in exploring the potential of telemedicine in the rural health system. This study aimed to investigate the application and effect of telemedicine as well as their regional heterogeneity in the primary care centres in rural China. Based on the stratified multistage cluster sampling, a cross-sectional study was conducted among 358 township health centres (THCs) from eastern, central and western China. A self-administered questionnaire was used and the data of the Health Statistical Annual Reports in 2017 were collected to investigate the implication of telemedicine as well as the performance and other characteristics of each THCs. Propensity score matching was used to estimate the effect of telemedicine application on the bed occupancy rate and the number of annual outpatient visits of the THCs, with comparison among the regions. The overall prevalence of telemedicine application was 58.66% in 2017, and it was found to increase the bed occupancy rate of the THCs in the national range (p < 0.1). When divided into different regions, telemedicine was found to improve the number of annual outpatient visits in western China (p < 0.05) and the bed occupancy rate in eastern China (p < 0.1). Disparities in the degree of remoteness and the capability of THCs among the regions were also found in this study, which may be the reasons for the regional heterogeneous effects of telemedicine. These findings suggested the potential of telemedicine in improving the utilization of primary care centres in rural areas. Further studies were needed to investigate the underlying reasons for its regional heterogeneous effects. View Full-Text
Keywords: telemedicine; regional heterogeneity; propensity score matching telemedicine; regional heterogeneity; propensity score matching
MDPI and ACS Style

Xu, W.; Pan, Z.; Lu, S.; Zhang, L. Regional Heterogeneity of Application and Effect of Telemedicine in the Primary Care Centres in Rural China. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 4531. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124531

AMA Style

Xu W, Pan Z, Lu S, Zhang L. Regional Heterogeneity of Application and Effect of Telemedicine in the Primary Care Centres in Rural China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(12):4531. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124531

Chicago/Turabian Style

Xu, Wanchun, Zijing Pan, Shan Lu, and Liang Zhang. 2020. "Regional Heterogeneity of Application and Effect of Telemedicine in the Primary Care Centres in Rural China" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, no. 12: 4531. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124531

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