Approximately 62 million people – nearly one in five Americans – live in rural and frontier areas.
Rural Americans reside in 80 percent of the total U.S. land area but only comprise 20 percent of the U.S. population.
There are 4,118 primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in rural and frontier areas of all U.S. states and territories compared to 1,960 in metropolitan areas.
The average median income for rural U.S. residents is $40,615 compared to $51,831 for urban residents.
Approximately 15.4 percent of rural U.S. residents live in poverty compared to 11.9 percent of urban residents.
Rural Health Workforce:
There is a more holistic, patient-centered approach to health care in rural communities – providers have the opportunity to provide more comprehensive care to their patients.
Despite this opportunity, only nine percent of all physicians and 12 percent of all pharmacists practice in those settings.
There were 55 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents in rural areas in 2005, compared with 72 per 100,000 in urban areas – a figure which decreases to 36 per 100,000 in isolated, small rural areas.
There are only half as many specialists per 100,000 residents in rural areas compared to urban areas.
Rural areas average about 30 dentists per 100,000 residents; urban areas average approximately twice that number.
Only 10 percent of psychologists/psychiatrists and 20 percent of masters-level social workers work in rural areas.
Healthcare/Health Insurance Accessibility:
While nearly 85 percent of U.S. residents can reach a Level I or Level II trauma center within an hour, only 24 percent of residents living in rural areas can do so within that time frame – this despite the fact that 60 percent of all trauma deaths in the United States occur in rural areas,.
Approximately 21.9 percent of residents in remote rural counties are uninsured, compared to 17.5 percent in rural counties adjacent to urban counties and 14.3 percent in urban counties.
Rural residents spend more on health care out of pocket than their urban counterparts; on average, rural residents pay or 40% of their health care costs out of their own pocket compared with the urban share of one-third. One in five rural residents spends more than $1,000 out of pocket in a year.
Rural hospitals are sources of innovation and resourcefulness that reach beyond geographical boundaries to deliver quality care. They are also typically the economic foundation of their communities – every dollar spent on rural hospitals generates about $2.20 for the local economy.
Twelve percent of rural hospitals indicate they are not considering HIT investments because of cost concerns compared to 3 percent of urban hospitals.
Critical Access Hospitals care for a higher percentage of Medicare patients than other hospitals because rural populations are typically older than urban populations.
State Offices of Rural Health:
All 50 states maintain a State Office of Rural Health (SORH).
SORHs serve as a clearinghouse of information and innovative approaches to rural health services delivery; coordinate state activities related to rural health in order to avoid duplication of efforts and resources; and identify Federal, State and nongovernmental programs that can provide technical assistance to public/private nonprofit entities serving rural populations.
Collectively, SORHs provided technical assistance to more than 28,000 rural communities during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.