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The importance of independent practices in rural areas


Access to healthcare is a major factor in an individual’s ability to achieve the best health outcomes. In the US, many people do not have such access primarily because of where they live. Independent practices in rural areas play a significant role in the residents’ continued health and well-being, on many levels.

There are many factors contributing to a person’s overall health; however, regular and reliable access to healthcare, especially primary care, can aid in the:

  • Prevention of disease and disability
  • Early detection and independent practices treatment of illnesses and other health conditions
  • Increased quality of life
  • Reduction of premature death and increased life expectancy.

Independent practices in rural areas enable the provider and clinical staff to develop meaningful and long-term relationships with patients, providing integrated services while practicing within the context of family and community. Access to a consistent and reliable independent primary care practice is associated with:

  • Increased patient trust in the physician
  • More effective patient-provider communication
  • An increased likelihood that patients will receive the care they need.

At Elation Health, we put independent physicians first with proven results. We are authentically founded from the heart of a primary care practice and the science of health economics and based on humanity, not CPT-codes, in the exact right place for value-based care. 

The importance of access to healthcare can be seen in data culled from a 2019 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study:

  • One-quarter of rural adults (26%) say there has been a time in the past few years when they needed health care but didn’t get it.
  • Asked why they weren’t able to get health care, nearly half (45%) said they couldn’t afford it and nearly one in five (19%) said they couldn’t find a doctor who would take their health insurance.
  • Physical access is another challenge, with nearly one-quarter citing distance (23%) or difficulty getting appointments during the hours they needed (22%).
  • When asked about the most important thing that could be done to improve their health, more than a third (36%) of rural adults identified options related to fixing health care, including improving access, improving quality, and reducing costs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that people who live in rural areas are more likely to die prematurely from the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. A number of causes have been cited for these health disparities, including:

  • Health Behaviors: Rural residents often have fewer opportunities to be physically active compared to their urban counterparts, which can lead to conditions such as obesity and high blood pressure. Rural residents also have higher rates of smoking, which increases the risk of many chronic diseases.
  • Healthy Food Access: National and local studies suggest that residents of low-income, minority, and rural neighborhoods often have less access to supermarkets and healthy foods.
  • Demographic Characteristics: Residents of rural areas tend to be older, with lower incomes and less education than their urban counterparts. These factors are linked to poorer health.
  • Health Care Access: Rural counties have fewer health care workers, specialists (such as cancer doctors), critical care units, emergency facilities, and transportation options. Residents are also more likely to be uninsured and to live farther away from health services.

There are approximately 57 million people living in rural spaces in the US. Most of them are in areas where the physician shortage is being felt in significant ways. Gaps in care often result from geographic barriers as well as other factors involved that reinforce the importance of independent practices in rural areas.