Residents of urban areas often have the same access-to-care problems as rural residents, although the latter receive far more attention.

So concludes a new report published on the Health Affairs Blog.

According to the analysis, urban and rural residents have similar access problems – and among urban residents, the problems in some instances are even greater.  One distinction:

…while rural America has access problems because there are not enough doctors, urban America has access problems because there are not enough appointments.

One potential solution to this problem, the report suggests, is focusing on access instead of geography and making telehealth services more available to rural and urban residents alike.  To date, most telehealth efforts have focused on serving residents of rural areas only.

NAUH made this very point in a letter last month to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about CMS’s proposed Medicare physician fee schedule for 2018, writing that

Geography… is not the only factor that limits access to medical services, and for this reason, NAUH urges CMS to take steps to facilitate greater use of telehealth services in non-rural areas. Specifically, there are many urban areas across the country that have been designated medically underserved areas or health professional shortage areas by the Health Services and Resources Administration. NAUH believes Medicare beneficiaries who live in such communities are no less deserving of federal policies that seek to enhance their access to care than residents of rural areas and therefore urges CMS to take steps to expand the use of telehealth services. The result, we believe, would be better, more appropriate care and very possibly even reduced overall health care costs as Medicare beneficiaries receive assistance with their medical problems in a more timely manner. For this same reason, NAUH also urges CMS to consider even greater use of telehealth, beyond both its current parameters and its expansion to medically underserved and health professional shortage areas, as we have recommended.

Learn more about the issue and this new perspective in the article “Giving Urban Health Care Access Issues The Attention They Deserve in Telemedicine Reimbursement Policies,” which can be found here, on the Health Affairs Blog.