Rural Health: Patient and Provider Challenges

According to the CDC, rural residents are more likely to die from chronic conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease
  • Stroke

Lack of access to healthcare is one of the top reasons for this gap. The barriers to care include:

  • Long, often prohibitive, driving distances to major hospitals, clinics, or universities offering specialized care
  • Too few local clinics and not enough providers
  • Lack of access to medical technology

Rural residents are generally older and sicker than urban residents, according to the CDC. And rural children with mental or developmental disorders face more challenges to accessing care than their peers in urban settings.

Rural practices and providers are strained by high operating costs and a pattern of hospital and clinic closures. This leaves fewer providers doing even more work.

Other challenges include:

  • An ongoing struggle to recruit health care providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and other providers to rural areas, especially those far outside a metro area
  • Lack of behavioral health providers to partner with on patient care
  • Higher rates of patient suicide
  • Higher number of patients with health concerns and complications from lack of access to care
  • Lower levels of health overall and complications from lack of access to care
  • Difficulty accessing critical healthcare infrastructure including electronic records, equipment, and generators
  • Few or no obstetric and gynecology services

The Connect to Health @Your Library Pilot Can Help


Long, prohibitive driving distances to major hospitals, clinics, or universities offering specialized care.


Patients can use the public library in their area to access a telehealth appointment.


Patients can check out equipment or reserve a private, equipped room within the library to participate in a telehealth visit.

  • Click here to see what libraries are participating in this project.
  • Encourage your patient to check with their local library to see if they are participating in this project.
  • Remind patients to schedule time with their local librarian ahead of the appointment. Librarians can help patients set up and test the equipment for a successful visit.

Outreach toolkit for healthcare providers coming soon!