Promoting Rural Cancer Care Innovation

Institutional approaches to close The Rural Cancer Gap

Disparities in rural-urban cancer outcomes have been well documented. Rural cancer patients face barriers to multidisciplinary care, decreased access, increased travel requirements, financial burdens, and inadequate clinical trial infrastructure. Economic, social, and structural barriers compound the problem. Rural residents engage in fewer cancer-preventive activities and adopt more fatalistic views about cancer and cancer prevention. These discrepancies are commonly referred to as the Rural Cancer Gap. Despite a better understanding of the causes of the Rural Cancer Gap, the problem has worsened. Over the last twenty years, the gap in rural-urban age-adjusted cancer mortality rates has widened.

Expand services and decrease travel distances⁠ to increase rural patients' access to care.

Mitigate financial burdens when insurance coverage is limited⁠.

Open avenues to clinical trial participation⁠.

Create partnerships between providers and community leaders to address local gaps in care⁠.

Levit LA, Byatt L, Lyss AP, Paskett ED, Levit K, Kirkwood K, Schenkel C, Schilsky RL. Closing the Rural Cancer Care Gap: Three Institutional Approaches. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020 Jul;16(7):422-430.

There are several approaches that can be used to close the rural cancer gap. These approaches involve addressing the barriers to cancer care that rural residents face, such as a lack of access to medical facilities, a shortage of specialists, and a lack of health insurance.

One approach to closing the rural cancer gap is to increase funding for rural health clinics and hospitals. This can help expand access to cancer care services in rural areas, and can provide rural residents with more options for receiving care. In addition, providing funding for transportation services can help rural residents access cancer care services, even if they do not have access to a car.

Another approach is to increase the number of specialists, such as oncologists, in rural areas. This can be done by providing incentives, such as loan forgiveness programs, to medical professionals who are willing to work in rural areas. In addition, telemedicine can be used to connect rural patients with specialists who are located in urban areas, which can help improve access to care for rural residents.

Finally, addressing the social determinants of health can also help close the rural cancer gap. This can be done by implementing policies that can improve economic opportunities in rural areas and by providing support for rural residents who are unable to afford health insurance. In addition, addressing cultural and linguistic barriers can help improve communication between patients and healthcare providers, which can ultimately lead to better health outcomes for rural residents.