December 5th, 2014
Editor’s note: This post is also authored by Kate Samuels, a project manager at Brookings. It is informed by a case study, the fourth in a series made possible through the Merkin Initiative on Physician Payment Reform and Clinical Leadership, a special project to develop clinician leadership in health care delivery and financing reform. The case study will be presented on Monday, December 8 using a “MEDTalk” format featuring live story-telling and knowledge-sharing from patients, providers, and policymakers.
Health care for patients in rural communities across the United States remains a unique challenge. Despite many programs aimed at improving access to physicians and hospitals, access to health care providers remains limited. While 19.3 percent of Americans live in a rural area, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas. Similarly, 65 percent of all Health Professional Shortage Areas are in rural areas. Rural residents often face long travel distances to see a specialist after what can be months waiting for an appointment.
Even in areas where rural primary care providers (PCPs) remain committed and engaged in the community, often having been raised and educated there, these providers often lack close connections to specialists who tend to be based in larger, urban academic medical centers (AMC). The result is a worsening gap in specialty care access, in turn leading to a deteriorative effect on rural provider morale and retention.Read the rest of this entry »