Report: Rural Americans Face Poorer Quality of Care, Physician Shortage

CaliforniaHealthLine | Americans living in rural areas are more likely to have chronic health issues and less access to quality health care than those living in urban areas, according to a report by the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization, Reuters reports (O’Toole, Reuters, 7/27).

For the report, Harris Interactive polled 2,000 patients and 1,006 primary care physicians in the U.S. in May.

Key Findings

Surveyed physicians living in rural areas were more likely than urban and suburban health care providers to say that cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions are major health issues affecting their communities (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 7/27).

The report found that there are only 65 primary care physicians for every 100,000 rural Americans, compared with 105 PCPs per 100,000 urban and suburban residents.

In addition, rural patients generally reported that they thought the quality of care was lower in their communities than in urban areas. Data from UnitedHealth showed that in 70% of markets, quality of care in rural areas was worse than in urban areas (Reuters, 7/27).


According to the report, a planned expansion of insurance coverage under the federal health reform law could add up to eight million insured rural residents by 2019.

Researchers said that using telehealth technologies in rural areas could help prevent problems with gaining access to care (CQ HealthBeat, 7/27). For example, broadband Internet access could help facilitate communication between patients and health care providers, according to the report (Reuters, 7/27).


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