I’m an otolaryngologist – otolaryngologist – at Rush University in Chicago, where I lead efforts to provide health care to underserved communities. The focus of our work covers a wide range, as we provide otolaryngology care to homeless communities in Chicago, overseas in the Dominican Republic, and rural communities in Illinois.
In this role, I have had the privilege of gaining a unique perspective working both in a large academic medical center and in a small hospital in rural central Illinois. Similar to Simard’s observations of trees, I realized that quality hospital care is also very interdependent, with the well-being of patients and communities often linked to collaborative efforts between rural community hospitals and large centers. urban.
Over the past five years, I have seen patients from various small towns who often drive an hour each way for a clinic appointment. They may seek help and management for an ENT problem, intervention such as nose or sinus surgery, excision of skin or neck cancer, or insertion of an ear tube. Typically, these patients are more comfortable seeking care in their own community rather than going to a remote hospital.
Yet disparities in the distribution of specialists such as ear, nose and throat physicians abound. Previous searches found that about two-thirds of US counties – with an average population of about 21,000 – did not have a working otolaryngologist. In Illinois, we recently found that 38 rural counties with over 620,000 inhabitants among them had no registered otolaryngologists.
I often see these disparities in care. There are many areas in the field of otolaryngology – such as sleep medicine, facial plastics, and head and neck surgery – that present new breakthroughs in treatment that are not readily available to patients. people residing in rural communities. At the same time, it is quite common for a Chicago resident who lives near various medical centers to seek treatment from several otolaryngologists who sub-specialize in different areas, giving them access to the most appropriate care. more complete possible.
These gaps between urban and rural health care extend far beyond Illinois and into most rural communities in the United States. rural hospitals and urban university medical centers which provide easier access to complex otolaryngology care.
As part of these initiatives, ENT surgeons visiting rural communities can help provide services to meet basic needs, while patients who may require complex care can be referred to larger urban medical centers. The simple fact of being present and available to see patients in rural communities allows better access to care. It also allows patients to receive treatment in a timely manner, thus avoiding further complications secondary to their disease.
Urban-rural partnerships can particularly benefit older patients, many of whom are very reluctant to travel to remote hospitals for treatment. I remember seeing an older patient with facial skin cancer who required surgery. He lived in a rural town, Gibson City, and refused to travel long distances for treatment. Since I see patients at a neighborhood hospital, I was able to take care of him in his local community where he felt most comfortable.
Just as Simard’s research has shown that acts of sharing between trees help the forest to thrive as a single being, a symbiotic relationship between rural hospitals and large medical centers is vital to the well-being of these respective institutions – and for the communities they serve.