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Rural Healthcare: Barriers to Access and Potential Solutions

Parker, Priscilla
This paper gives a high-level overview of the barriers to accessing rural healthcare, and potential solutions. Access to healthcare is one of the largest inequities in the United States today. According to Healthy People 2020, it appears that rural health priorities have changed very little in the last decade. Access to healthcare continues to be the most frequently identified rural health priority. Lack of healthcare access in a community affects all stages of life, prenatal to death, and medical, dental, and psychological health. Access may be inadequate due to lack of funding of lack of staffing. Access may be restricted by seasonal and natural variations or physical distance. Even in communities that have the facilities, staff, and funding, residents may find it difficult to access services due to the cost of the services, lack of education, or social isolation. Telehealth is perhaps the most important advancement that has helped, and will continue to help, bridge the gap between urban and rural community access to healthcare. Healthcare providers in rural areas must also be encouraged to practice to their full scope of practice. By utilizing resources already in place, and educating residents about the available resources, it is possible to begin chipping away at the inequitable access to healthcare that plagues rural communities.
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