Heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and unintentional injuries are top five causes of death in the United States. All have a higher incidence of death among rural residents. Research reveals that lack of access to healthcare in rural areas is the culprit.
Rural hospitals are closing rapidly, resulting in further challenges for rural patients across the country. Since 2010, more than 105 America’s 1,700 rural hospitals have closed, according to the University of North Carolina’s Rural Health Research Program. A Navigant report found that 21% of rural hospitals are at high risk of closing unless there is an improvement in their financial situation.
Apart from fatal injuries and illnesses, rural residents face other practical challenges related to health in their communities.
There is a shortage of doctors in rural communities. Doctors are concentrated in urban areas. This means less availability for appointments, limited access to specialists, travelling longer distances to reach physicians and difficulty in getting enough attention from the busy provider.
Statistically, rural residents are older and need to frequently visit their primary doctors and other specialists.
Pregnant women have to travel even farther to deliver a baby, leading to risk of complications at birth. It is hard to access pre-natal and post-natal care.
Rural residents enjoy more outdoor activities as compared to urban residents thus, are at a greater risk of injury that need immediate care at a trauma center.
One solution can be air medical services, which transport patients to critical care facilities within minutes. With nearly 90% of patients transported living in rural areas, air ambulance services are a vital part of healthcare access in these communities.
But, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have remained steady for decades. Operational costs required for air medical services have increased. Thus, creating a financially undesirable solution. Some private insurers also refuse to cover air medical services or pay minimal costs requiring patients to assume the balance.
Among other solutions patients should consider remote health monitoring system access care. Another option for both rural and urban residents is telemedicine & telehealth software that allows patients to connect with a doctor or nurse virtually using technology and without having to travel.