The obstacles faced by healthcare providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different than those in urban areas. Rural Americans face a unique combination of factors that create disparities in healthcare not found in urban areas:
- Only about 10% of physicians practice in rural America despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of the population lives in these areas.
- Rural residents tend to be poorer. On the average, per capita income is $7,417 lower than in urban areas, and rural Americans are more likely to live below the poverty line. The disparity in incomes is even greater for minorities living in rural areas. Nearly 24% of rural children live in poverty.
- Hypertension is higher in rural than urban areas (101.3 per 1,000 individuals in MSAs and 128.8 per 1,000 individuals in non-MSAs).
- 20% of nonmetropolitan counties lack mental health services, compared with 5% of metropolitan counties.
- Medicare payments to rural hospitals and physicians are dramatically less than those to their urban counterparts for equivalent services. And more than 470 rural hospitals have closed in the past 25 years.
- Medicare patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) who were treated in rural hospitals were less likely than those treated in urban hospitals to receive recommended treatments and had significantly higher adjusted 30-day post-AMI death rates from all causes than those in urban hospitals.
- Rural residents have greater transportation difficulties reaching healthcare providers, often traveling great distances to reach a doctor or hospital.