Rural areas of the United States have never been known for easy access to high-quality healthcare. There’s simply not enough incentive for health systems to plant roots where patients are few and far between, leaving residents to weigh whether a 2-hour car drive followed by a long wait in the emergency room is worth it for a sore throat or a laceration that may not even need stitches. The increased risk for poor outcomes is obvious, and the situation isn’t going to improve any time soon according to new data from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. In fact, according to the report, already difficult business conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic could force hundreds of rural hospitals to close in the next few years. This equates to a desperate need for patients and possibly a great opportunity for urgent care. As CHQPR head Harold Miller, MS said in an article published by MedPage Today, in many rural areas, hospitals “are the health system in their community. There is no urgent care center. There may not even be a primary care practice. Everything is at that hospital…so if the hospital closes, healthcare is gone.” Unless, in fact, there were to be an urgent care center to pick up the slack. JUCM published an article pointing out that urgent care may be very well positioned to fill gaps in rural healthcare. Rural and Tertiary Markets: The Next Urgent Care Frontierhere is available in our archive.
Healthcare Access Is About to Get Even Worse in Rural Areas. Can Urgent Care Fill the Gap?