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The obstacles faced by health care providers and patients in rural areas are different than those in urban areas. The health care delivery system in rural America is largely fragmented. Compared with urban areas that generally contain many provider networks, large hospitals and greater access to technologies, rural areas often have a small number of independent practitioners who cover wide geographic areas, and the nearest medical specialist or hospital may be hours away. The result is a system that often is more costly and less effective at meeting the needs of rural patients.
As a result of the fractured nature of the health care delivery system, as well as unique economic factors and cultural and social differences, rural Americans generally have poorer health status and less access to care than their urban counterparts. Today, rural households have higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease. The rural population is older; has lower education and income levels; and is more likely to smoke, be obese and be physically inactive than the urban population.To reduce inefficiencies and improve care for rural residents, state legislatures seek innovative ways to increase access to doctors and to better coordinate care.
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