The cost of rural living
Many Nevadans choose to live in the wide open spaces and serenity of rural towns and communities over urban cities. But that choice can come at a price, namely, giving up easy access to many of life’s conveniences – like the library and jumbo box stores – and its necessities – like quality healthcare.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has noted a significant disparity in rural cancer care versus urban care. According to Robert Croyle, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, “People who live in rural areas often face significant health care access challenges, including fewer physicians, long distances to facilities, and limited transportation options.”
The USDA Economic Research Service report on Health Status and Health Care Access of Farm and Rural Populations, states that, "Both farm and rural populations experience lower access to health care along the dimensions of affordability, proximity, and quality, compared with their nonfarm and urban counterparts."
Northern Nevada’s cancer warrior
Fortunately for many battling cancer in northern Nevada’s rural communities, compassionate, high quality care comes to them. Oncologist Jorge Perez MD, PhD, MRCP, MRCPath, founder of Sierra Nevada Cancer Center, visits patients in several rural communities every week.
“I created Sierra Nevada Cancer Center to serve the needs of an underserved population – those who live outside of Nevada’s big population centers of Las Vegas and Reno,” Dr. Perez explains. “Fighting cancer is hard enough. Patients shouldn’t have to struggle to get good care, too.”
Every week, Perez splits his time between Carson City, Gardnerville and Fallon, Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe, California. A Board Certified Oncologist and Hematologist, Perez has established his practice in these Nevada’s cities in order to make care more accessible to rural cancer patients. He even goes a step further by providing his patients with 24/7 access to him via cell phone.
Struggling for solutions
So what happens when rural citizens don't have ready access to the healthcare services they need? According to the 2014 Rural Policy Research Institute report, Access to Rural Health Care - A Literature Review and New Synthesis, barriers to healthcare result in healthcare needs not being met, including lack of preventive and screening services, lack of treatment, and being unable to keep patients out of costly hospital beds.
Access to cancer care supports everything from cancer prevention and screening to treatment and follow-up. In communities that are not served by a dedicated oncologist like Dr. Perez, the healthcare system has made some inroads. Telehealth, which uses computers, cameras, videoconferencing and wireless communications, is able to provide some patient care services to underserved areas. There are also many initiatives in place to recruit qualified healthcare professionals to rural areas.
“I could have set up my practice in Houston where I did my fellowship or Philadelphia where I did my residency,” explains Dr. Perez. “I chose Nevada and its rural communities deliberately. I put a lot more miles on my car this way, but that means my patients don’t have to.”
Qualified specialists like Dr. Perez, who are willing to invest their time, energy, skills and resources to care for a rural community, are few and far between. That’s why the NCI, federal agencies and various healthcare organizations continue to look for solutions to this rural healthcare challenge.
Are you a rural resident who is in need of quality care? Our team at SNCC are ready to help. Visit our Contact page for more information."