Heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. These top five causes of death in the United States all have a higher incidence of death among rural residents and research points to lack of access to health care as a culprit. Consider these challenges and solutions facing rural Americans.
Health Care Solutions for Rural Americans
(Family Features) Heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. These top five causes of death in the United States all have a higher incidence of death among rural residents and research points to lack of access to health care as a culprit.
According to the University of North Carolina’s Rural Health Research Program, since 2010, more than 105 of America’s 1,700 rural hospitals have closed. Additionally, a Navigant report found that 21% of rural hospitals are at high risk of closing unless their financial situations improve.
Every day, rural Americans find themselves farther from medical care.
Practical challenges facing patients
Fatal injuries and illnesses aside, rural residents face other practical concerns related to the health care in their communities.
One solution to fill the gap in rural health care is air medical services, which transport patients to critical care facilities in minutes. With nearly 90% of patients transported living in rural areas, air ambulance services are an essential part of health care access in these communities.
However, just like rural hospitals, air ambulances are threatened as well. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have remained steady for decades, while operational costs required for air medical services have increased, creating a financially unsustainable situation. Some private insurers also refuse to cover air medical services or pay minimal costs, requiring patients to assume the balance.
How to take action
The challenges facing rural health care access may be significant, but rural residents can take individual actions to make a difference for themselves, their families and even their communities.
Protecting Patients Against the Unexpected
With increasing frequency, insurance companies are not covering the full cost of medical emergencies, leaving families with out-of-pocket expenses they didn’t expect.
If you need medical transport and a physician or first responder determines air evacuation is the best – or only – option to get you to care, you shouldn’t have to worry about the bill you’ll receive afterward. Many emergency service providers have support efforts in place to help you focus on recovery, not finances.
For example, many air medical companies provide patients access to their patient advocates, who work with the patient’s insurance provider to properly cover air medical transport, taking the patient out of the middle. This process can result in significantly lower costs for the patient, often amounting to just the usual copay and deductible.
Visit globalmedicalresponse.com/protect-patients to learn more about these services in your area.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (doctor and man, woman speaking with doctor on computer)SOURCE:
Global Medical Response
To help shed light on the growing national problem with opioid drugs, Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist, lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
(BPT) - While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it's affecting your family, friends and neighbors.
"Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting," says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. "The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations."
To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
Opioids are prescribed for various reasons
Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.
Length of use varies
"Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated," says Dr. Hooten. "How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors."
He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days.
"When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose." After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours."
There are alternatives for pain management
There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:
* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.
Opioids can be deadly if misused
"Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose," says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.
Addiction can happen to anyone
As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction."
There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.
If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. "This might be enough to prompt a change," says Dr. Hooten. "Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps."
For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
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