Compared with urban Americans, rural residents tend to be in poorer health, have fewer doctors, hospitals and other health resources, and face more difficulty getting to health services, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In South Dakota, rural physicians have a new diagnostic tool that will make up for the lack of doctors, particularly specialists, in rural facilities. Called VisualDx, the Web-based system gives physicians access to more than 17,000 medical images of 900 diseases -- 250 of which are infectious. Doctors simply enter observations, symptoms, medical histories and test results into the search tool. The results help them diagnose unusual or rare illnesses they seldom see, such as measles or even anthrax. Half of all diseases demonstrate a skin or pattern clue. The state Department of Health has placed the system, which was created by Logical Images, in 82 rural clinics and hospitals across the state, using federal disaster preparedness grant funds. Since it was installed last fall, nearly 45,000 images have been viewed. To learn more, contact the South Dakota Department of Health at 605-773-3361. Recent Ideas on rural health include Tennessee's pilot program to provide electronic prescribing tools and Maryland's eCare, a program that electronically monitors intensive-care patients in rural hospitals.