Thursday, May 19, 2016

Visiting consulting clinics reduce rural orthopedic doctor shortages, says Iowa study

Visiting consulting clinics greatly reduce rural orthopedic doctor shortages and drive times for patients, says a survey by the University of Iowa. Only 35 of the state's 99 counties have a full-time orthopedist, reports Tom Snee for Iowa Now. However, when VCCS are factored in, 88 counties are covered by an orthopedist. That's good news, considering orthopedic patients are "more likely to be older, overweight and less physically active," making it harder for them to travel long distances to seek care. Many end up delaying treatment rather than travelling.

"VCCs are outreach sites regularly visited by an orthopedic surgeon, typically a rural hospital located in a community too small to support a full-time specialist," Snee writes. "Patients meet with doctors in person and receive diagnostic services and some outpatient procedures. More complex procedures are usually referred to larger hospitals with the appropriate resources to support them. The researchers used data from 2014 to estimate average trip length for participating orthopedic surgeons and patients in all of Iowa’s census tracts."

Researchers found that VCCs reduced the average distance rural patients drove to see an orthpedist by 50 percent, from 19.2 miles to 8.4 miles, Snee writes. The survey found that 45 percent of all Iowa-based orthopedists visited at least one VCC since 2014. Lead author Thomas Gruca said, "Orthopedic surgeons in Iowa have been invested in rural outreach for more than 25 years. By traveling to 80 different sites every month, these physicians from Iowa and surrounding states reduced patient travel time and improved access to orthopedic care."

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