Distance and Access to Health Care for Rural Women with Heart Failure


Background and Research Objective: Heart Failure (HF) is a disease state requiring ongoing and specialized health care. For persons living in rural areas, access to care may be delayed or difficult as best due to the distance involved. Distance to obtain health care can be further confounded by such issues as weather and lack of transportation. To further understand these issues, a sample of women diagnosed with HF and living in rural upstate New York was studied to explicate the impact of distance and weather on access to health care.
Sample and Method: A convenience sample of 45 women living in upstate New York diagnosed with HF was studied to assess the impact of distance and the associated issues on accessing health care. Mileage to primary care and specialty care was quantified. Frequencies for associated issues such as the need for emergency care, weather, and the ability to drive were measured.
Results and Conclusions: The mean distance to obtain primary care was 6.4 miles, while the mean distance to obtain cardiology care was 32.6 miles. However, only 50% of the sample actually sought ongoing care from a cardiologist. When assessing the impact of weather or distance on access to health care, no significant influences were found. However, with increasing age, weather was shown to approach significance (p=. 059). These findings further illustrate the ongoing issues experienced by rural dwellers when accessing health care for HF.

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