According to the National Public Health Week Initiative by the American Public Health Association, 14% of Americans live in rural areas. These communities are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to access to healthcare, resulting in poorer health outcomes. Americans living in rural areas are at a greater risk of premature death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke when compared to Americans living in urban communities.
At Vytalize, we recognize the importance of ensuring patients live healthier lives, no matter their location. In a Q&A with Director of Physician Network Development & Sales Teresa Shaw, we take a closer look at how Vytalize closes gaps in care for providers and their patients who need it. Check it out below!
What challenges are physicians and practices in rural settings facing, and what are their biggest concerns?
Challenges in rural communities include limited healthcare options and increased driving distance to healthcare. In my conversations with our existing partners and prospects, I often hear of challenges like patients who struggle with adherence, and patients who switch from traditional Medicare to other payers because they saw a TV commercial or got a mailer or phone call. Typically, these patients are unaware of what they signed up for and how it really works until they come in for care and realize that they do not have open care like they did before. Patients don’t realize the doctors’ hands are tied with the level of care when they go in with different healthcare plans or how they may vary from company to company. Lastly, physicians in rural areas often do not have the support of sub-specialists and hospitalists which brings about limited access to treating a wider range of health conditions.
What are some of the unique challenges that patients face in these communities?
Some challenges patients in rural communities face include being sedentary, lack of convenience to health care providers and sometimes hospitals, and general social determinants of health (SDOH), with a strong focus on the convenience of processed foods & tobacco and the lack of affordable nutritional foods.
How does Vytalize address those challenges/gaps in healthcare?
Vytalize offers personalized support, unique to each partnering practice which allows us to close the gaps in health care. Our engaged practices have expressed that the actionable data insights we are able to share both increase awareness of the challenges their patients are facing and provide steps forward. For practices, knowing that they have access to their Vytalize Medical Unit team for support is very important as this level of interaction is not always common with ACOs. Additionally, our practices feel that our support is extremely helpful for their patients who struggle with adherence.
What health conditions are most prevalent in rural areas?
The physicians we work with frequently see patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. It’s so important for these physicians to work closely with their patients to ensure their conditions are under control and easy to manage, and Vytalize helps the providers and practices develop the best solutions that are personalized to their particular patients’ needs.
What resonates most when you stop by and talk to more rural practices?
Most rural practices struggle with their workload juxtaposed with lack of staff and limited time to do all that needs to be done. We find that many of these practices enjoy partnering with Vytalize to leverage our health team resources – including their dedicated Medical Directors, Population Health Associates, registered nurses, social workers, a registered dietitian, pharmacist, behavioral health and other clinical team members – who serve as an extension of the practice’s care team and lend that extra support. We also ensure that engaged physicians and practice staff are compensated for their time.
How is Vytalize able to be proactive in a space where health conditions are typically treated at an advanced stage?
Our Connected Care program enables us to be more proactive, especially for patients who face the most or greatest challenges and are often the sickest. Connected Care offers additional clinical services in between appointments like remote patient monitoring. We also pride ourselves on customizing the physician and patient experiences to what that practice specifically needs, which helps everyone make a greater and more positive impact overall.
While physicians and other health care providers may face many challenges throughout rural areas of the country, their sense of connection and commitment to their patients and communities remain strong. If you are a rural physician interested in learning how Vytalize can offer additional care for your patients, contact us today!