A Look at Healthcare in Rural America

February 05, 2018

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center shows challenges and opportunities for health care delivery in rural states, U.S. News reports

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U.S. News notes that rural states are increasingly moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to health care delivery, with rural regions facing challenges in transportation, a shortage of local health professionals and impractical funding mechanisms.

About 46 million Americans live in rural areas, and they are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower-respiratory disease and stroke than Americans living in urban areas.

Rates of obesity, tobacco use and suicide are usually higher in rural areas as well.

The article notes:

"’When you talk about rural health care, it's virtually impossible to have a real, meaningful discussion without talking about the problems in rural America,’ Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said Wednesday at a panel hosted by the BPC in the nation's capital. ‘Higher poverty rates, more isolation, less transportation, aging population and now we have challenges in the … economy and a growing concern about growth, which is huge.’

In some rural areas, hospitals are few and far between, posing significant transportation barriers for residents. The issue will be exacerbated as the U.S. population continues to age and older people increasingly choose to age in place.” 

Telemedicine could incorporate emergency services and diagnoses that could save lives -- if those in rural communities have access to high-speed internet and broadband. Unfortunately, the rural areas in the seven states studied were more likely to have a slower internet connection than their urban counterparts. A focus on community (and with it, local infrastructure) is needed.

U.S. News shares that greater telemedicine and value-based payment models are future options that could improve the access and availability of care in rural areas. Value-based care is being tested in Pennsylvania and Maryland, using an all-payer global budgeting model which sets yearly revenue expectations for hospitals in advance and therefore creates "a powerful incentive to reorganize care for prevention and to invest in community services."

Read more on the state of rural health in America at U.S. News.


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