A growing concern in the healthcare industry is the need for more doctors in rural areas. About one-fourth of the population lives in an area that is designated as rural; however, only about ten percent of doctors practice medicine in areas designated as rural. This leads to an alarmingly high patient to doctor ratio, which can cause a multitude of problems. The most obvious problem is that doctors in these areas are quickly becoming overworked and are being forced to spend less time visiting with each patient in an attempt to see more patients per day. Unfortunately, this leads to a decrease in the quality of healthcare provided to patients in a rural setting.
There are numerous studies that show the discrepancy in the quality of healthcare in rural areas when compared to other areas of the country that are more heavily populated. One study found that, although only one-third of all motor vehicle accidents occurred on rural roads, over two-thirds of the deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents occurred on rural roads. Why are more people dying in rural car accidents when compared to similar accidents across the country? The answer is access to healthcare. After the accident, the response time is much longer for health professionals in a rural setting. This is due to the lack of hospitals near rural areas. This trend does not only apply to motor vehicle accidents, but rather, it applies to any accident where the victim is in need of immediate medical attention. Studies have also shown that hypertension, alcohol abuse, and suicide rates are also much higher in rural areas compared to other areas of the United States.
It will be very interesting to see how President Obama, with the help of the Affordable Care Act, will address these rural healthcare concerns. In the past, President Obama has spent much of his time addressing urban healthcare concerns. Unfortunately, in spending so much time and money on urban healthcare he has neglected the areas of the country that need healthcare the most. It is no secret that urban areas have gotten more attention compared to rural areas due to their higher minority population. What the President has failed to recognize is that urban areas are not suffering from the same physician shortages that rural areas are. There is growing concern that his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, is only going to add to the physician shortage problem. This is because most people, including myself, believe that the Affordable Care Act will increase the regulations for doctors, as well as decrease their pay. Many aspiring doctors will simply choose to pursue other careers, rather then spend the best years of their lives in school only to graduate with huge amounts of debt.
One can only hope that President Obama will become aware of, not only the looming physician shortage, but also the shortage of physicians in rural areas of the country. If not, people in rural areas will continue to see their quality of healthcare, along with their quality of life, diminish even further.