Lack of access to healthcare in rural areas is driving significant demand for urgent care centers that take pressure off rural healthcare systems.
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Around 60 million Americans, or one in five people, currently live in rural areas around the country. The term “rural” may evoke images of wide-open spaces and quaint farming communities, but per the Census Bureau, rural areas are defined as being sparsely populated, with low housing density, and far from urban centers. According to recent Census data, urban areas make up only 3% of the entire land area of the country but are home to more than 80% of the population.
The rural communities in which 20% of the U.S. population lives are struggling to find dependable healthcare among sparse and dwindling resources. According to research conducted by National Public Radio (NPR) with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 26% of Americans living in rural communities have not been able to access reliable healthcare when they’ve needed it in recent years. This is despite the fact that nearly 87% of the participants surveyed have some form of health insurance, a level that is higher now than it was a decade ago, due in part to the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid in many states.
Still, a significant number of rural Americans (40%) struggle with routine medical bills in addition to other regular living expenses. About half of those surveyed (49%) claimed they would be unable to afford any unexpected medical costs beyond a few hundred dollars.
Access to healthcare in rural America is often restricted by distance and limited resources. Recent studies conducted by the CDC concluded that the gap between accessible healthcare in urban and rural areas is dire. Rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, strokes, and unintentional injury than their urban counterparts. Rural children also face a number of problems at higher numbers than children in more heavily populated areas, including mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders.
Add to these challenges a lack of public transportation in many rural communities, compounding the time and expense one must consider when traveling to find healthcare. For rural residents who can’t take a day off work or who have limited mobility, a simple visit to the doctor’s office can become an insurmountable challenge.
The fact that a substantial amount of Americans still face major barriers to accessing healthcare — be they financial, geographic, or otherwise — is a growing concern, particularly as a large segment of our population is reaching retirement age. In light of the ongoing global health crisis, the need for affordable and dependable rural urgent care is more important than ever.
ADDRESSING RURAL HEALTHCARE NEEDS WITH AFC
Families in rural communities often date back generations, and the folks who live in these areas are generally satisfied with their quality of life. Rural urgent care centers bring convenience and quality care to them without disrupting the flow of the lives they choose to live beyond the confines of major urban centers. Rural communities are often tight-knit and family-oriented, where everyone is willing to extend a hand to help a neighbor. The mission and values of American Family Care (AFC) work well in such settings. We believe in providing the best healthcare possible in a kind and caring environment, making our services economical and convenient while respecting the rights and dignity of all our patients.
As one of the nation’s leading urgent care clinic franchises, AFC is making a significant impact on rural urgent care in underserved communities across the country.
To learn more about how you can become an AFC franchisee and build a rewarding career helping others, get started today!