Rural healthcare has long been an important issue to the people of America, whether it be for themselves or for their loved ones. Many rural areas face unique challenges in providing accessible and affordable health care to citizens. Rural healthcare issues are very prevalent in America today with millions of Americans lacking health insurance.
This lack of access can be especially felt within rural areas where a smaller population creates a larger geographical community. One of the many debates within rural healthcare is whether or not to expand government-funded health insurance programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, into rural areas to help provide more accessible care.
While it is evident that there are numerous issues to be solved in order to improve the quality and access of medical care, there are some cases showing the benefits of providing medical care in rural areas.
Current Problems With Rural Healthcare
Rural areas and healthcare present a tricky problem to solve due to the lack of easy access. There is some evidence that suggests that while expanding government insurance programs into rural areas would help, there are still many challenges in providing adequate care to the rural population. Here are some of them:
- Government-funded health insurance programs are not necessarily a solution to the healthcare problem in rural America because it may not be enough to provide adequate coverage to all who need it while keeping costs low at the same time.
- The number of physicians available in rural areas is a large concern for many who live in these areas, which would make it difficult to provide adequate access to medical care.
- Rural citizens often have poorer health than urban citizens and rely more heavily on Medicaid and Medicare due to the lack of insurance opportunities in these areas.
- The quality of medical care in rural areas is typically lower than the quality in urban areas because there is a larger quantity of specialists needed to provide adequate care for a smaller population.
- Although many people believe that providing proper healthcare in rural areas will have benefits, some researchers have suggested that it may be more efficient to simply move rural Americans into urban areas for better quality medical care.
- Other issues that may occur if expanding government-funded health insurance programs is seen as the main solution to providing healthcare in rural communities are that there may need to be more money spent on transportation and information technology than before, which could lead to higher taxes and fees.
- The issue might not just lie with the quality of doctors but also with the lack of healthy behaviors from those living in rural areas and what can be done to promote this.
- Many who provide medical services in rural areas do not want to stay in these regions, which is impacting the number of physicians available.
Ways to Improve Rural Healthcare Accessibility
One of the most effective solutions for improving rural healthcare in rural America without expanding government-funded health insurance programs might be through telemedicine, which would enable people living in these areas to have equal access as those who live in urban areas as well as provide more jobs for those who work in this field.
Another option for increasing healthcare access and availability in rural communities may be through an expansion of nurse practitioner programs, which would require less medical training than physicians and therefore could reduce the costs associated with this oftentimes difficult medical service.
There are also many opportunities to provide health services in schools as well as promote healthy lifestyles by promoting nutritious food options at schools and programs for children to play recreational sports.
Another way to improve rural healthcare is by providing more incentives and scholarships for medical students to attend universities in rural areas rather than urban or metropolitan ones, which could lead to more doctors choosing this field of work because they would then have a better understanding of how it is like living in these communities.
Some have suggested that there should be a shift from expanding government-funded health insurance programs into rural communities to investing in these areas by providing training opportunities for medical professionals, encouraging industries that would create jobs, and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Another idea that has been proposed to improve healthcare in rural America is permitting nurse practitioners and physician assistants to do more procedures and prescribing medications without a doctor present, which would increase their role within the community leading to more accessible care.
There is also the belief that there needs to be more of a focus on preventative medicine, which could help lower the costs of medical care as well as increase the number of good years people live with their current diseases and conditions.
Importance of Healthcare Technology in Rural Areas
While some believe that technology in healthcare is an issue when it comes to providing people living in rural communities with the same quality of care as those who live in urban areas, many are seeing this development as a way to improve affordability.
One idea for using telemedicine in rural areas would be through video-conferencing to connect doctors in urban and metropolitan areas with patients living in rural communities, which would help provide them with more up-to-date medical care.
Another way technology could be used to improve healthcare would be through the use of mobile clinics that travel from city to city providing services at a low cost, although there are some concerns that these would become overcrowded.
While some are concerned that technology may increase the costs of healthcare in rural communities, others believe that it could actually lower this cost by reducing transportation fees as well as enabling people to have access to more services and products at a lower price.
Although rural America makes up around one-fifth of the population, there are many concerns that these communities have less access to affordable healthcare than those who live in urban or metropolitan ones. Hopefully, opportunities to expand healthcare accessibility and availability for people living in rural communities, including through telemedicine, nurse practitioners programs, healthy lifestyle initiatives, and better training opportunities for medical professionals will reduce these disparities creating a more equitable healthcare system.
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