More than a quarter (26%) of Americans who live in rural areas have not been able to get healthcare when they needed it at some point in recent years, according to new research National Public Radio conducted with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This in spite of the fact that 87% have one form of health insurance or another. The reason? Rural hospitals, which many rural Americans have relied upon for even basic health needs, never mind true emergencies, are closing at a dangerous clip; 8% of participants in the survey say hospitals in their communities have closed in recent years. In fact, 106 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. That posed a “problem” for 67% of participants in the NPR study, including 38% who said it was a “major problem.” For the 23% of people who said they’d gone without care because the nearest healthcare location was too far away, the future is looking even dimmer: 673 more rural hospitals are currently “at risk” according to data from iVantage Health Analytics. Distance wasn’t the only issue, though; 22% said they’ve gone without care because they couldn’t get an appointment when they needed one. This confluence of diminishing healthcare resources and timeliness would seem to present a golden opportunity for expanding urgent care operations. Consider the return-on-investment of setting up shop near a community that’s lost a hospital—or, better yet, of becoming the closest facility between two or more rural communities. (For purposes of the NPR poll, “rural communities” were defined as those that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area.)
Rural Hospitals Are Dying; Can Urgent Care Pick Up the Slack for Patients’ Immediate Needs?