The quality of cancer care you receive in North Carolina could depend on where you live. That’s the conclusion of two studies recently published in the North Carolina Medical Journal.
Stephanie Wheeler at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill analyzed people on Medicaid in the state to evaluate the frequency and availability of chemotherapy treatments, “Distance does matter, and we found that in urban areas, as we would expect, the further away that you live from a radiation provider, the lower odds you have of receiving radiation.”
One surprising outcome of Wheeler’s research – rural patients living less than 10 miles away from their provider are less likely to receive therapy than those living further away. She attributes that to the fact that people who live in rural areas are accustomed to driving further for their needs.
A separate study released this summer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology found there is a projected shortage of 1,500 physicians over the next 10 years to care for cancer patients.Wheeler also points out rural areas often have fewer specialists in close proximity. “There’s quality of care issues everywhere. I think what some of the issue might be in rural settings is that sometimes the oncologist practicing in those settings are more often generalists.”
The study also found that two-thirds of small oncology practices reported they were likely to merge, sell or close within a year. The report suggests an expansion of tele-medicine to give patients greater access to specialists and reducing the instability of payments from publicly insured patents that have a disproportionate impact on small community practices.