The challenges of rural healthcare

Some thoughts on the practice of medicine in rural Georgia.

Dr. Donald Mirate, an opthalmologist from Valdosta, talks about the challenges of caring for patients in the rural setting:

Please count me as one who is interested in this organization.  We will have a challenge on our hands, as reduced reimbursements and increased capital needs for diagnostic equipment and computers will prevent the spread of quality healthcare to rural areas, and perhaps cause some providers to withdraw from these areas.  Concurrently, there is more difficulty for patients to travel to health centers, due to the cost of transportation and having to work.  We may be left with a few overworked general practice physicians in rural Georgia, and no way to bring patients and specialized providers together for proper diagnosis and treatment.  The scenario is that we can care for patients up to a certain point, but then they are out of luck.
For example, as an ophthalmologist, I would not want to be off somewhere attempting to diagnose and treat eye problems, without my office full of equipment.  To do so would violate the standard of care, and put myself and my patients at risk.  While this can be done in a third world country on a mission trip, it is not advisable in the United States.

It seems that our challenge is to develop a comprehensive rural health care delivery system, from primary care up to major trauma, within the constraints of geography, funding, time, and medical malpractice.  That should be easy!

What do you think the challenges are?


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