In the United States, accessibility to healthcare is a crucial factor in determining an individual’s health status. While the US healthcare system aims to provide equal access to healthcare for all Americans, there are disparities between rural and urban communities. Around one-fifth of Americans residing in remote or rural areas face numerous barriers when attempting to access healthcare. Consequently, the health status of these individuals is often lower than that of their urban counterparts. Despite policy interventions, this problem persists.
Challenges faced by rural communities in the United States
- Acquiring a primary care physician: Due to a shortage of healthcare providers, rural areas have difficulty accessing primary care, and retaining providers in remote areas is challenging. According to research, almost 60 million Americans reside in areas where there are shortages of primary care physicians.
- Accessing healthcare facilities: Rural healthcare facilities, including emergency departments, have limited access to advanced imaging, consultants, and critical care services.
- Geographical accessibility: Travel is a significant barrier to receiving regular and specialized care for those living in rural communities. Rural inhabitants travel an average of 10 miles to access primary care, compared to 2 miles traveled by those in urban locations.
In 2016, a survey found that around 29% of Americans who required healthcare faced accessibility difficulties. While geography is not directly linked to poorer health outcomes, limited access to healthcare services contributes to disproportionately high morbidity and mortality rates in rural communities. It results in delays in disease diagnosis, extended waits for appropriate treatment, and a lack of knowledge about preventative healthcare options.
When progress leads towards a two-tiered system
In the United States, there is a growing divide in access to healthcare services between urban and rural areas. Healthcare services that require advanced technology and specialized care are increasingly being centralized in urban areas. This creates difficulties for people living in rural areas, who must travel long distances to access these services.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Many people are avoiding in-person visits to healthcare facilities, which puts additional pressure on already understaffed rural healthcare systems. Physicians are turning to virtual healthcare or telemedicine to continue serving patients, but this is challenging in rural areas due to limited access to reliable phone and internet services.
Overall, rural communities face significant challenges in accessing healthcare services in the United States, which can lead to delays in diagnoses, treatment, and a lack of preventative care.
Practicing prevention with information
As a leading North American testing laboratory, we believe in the fundamental value of equal access to healthcare for all. Our mission at Genetrack is to make high-quality laboratory testing accessible to every American. We strive to empower every person with the power of information, making it easy for them to track and monitor their health status from the convenience of their own homes.
For more than two decades, we have been developing and producing compact home test kits that are easy to transport and don’t require special storage conditions. We were pioneers in implementing painless and simple buccal swabs for DNA sample collection, a sampling method that can be used even on newborns and infants. We have continued to refine and innovate our processes to make DNA testing minimally invasive.
Our expert team of researchers and developers is dedicated to creating actionable genetic tests for disease monitoring and prevention. Our DNA Nutrition test, for example, examines genetic variants associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can be corrected with personalized dietary adjustments. Our Alzheimer’s disease test enables individuals to discover their risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s and choose to take proactive steps such as maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress levels, and supporting heart health to minimize their risk.
Therizon, the clinical arm of Genetrack, shares our vision of making clinical-level genetic testing available and accessible to everyone. The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of prevention, and we believe that providing all Americans, particularly those in rural and remote communities, with knowledge of their unique genetics that can be leveraged to make preventative lifestyle changes, will significantly improve the health status of our nation.
Responding to the increasing demand for diagnostic testing
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased demand for at-home diagnostic testing. To meet this demand, we are using our experience in designing automated testing assays to expand our testing menu to include clinical-grade diagnostic tests for sexual health and general health and wellness. This includes a fourth-generation HIV antigen and antibody test, as well as tests for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, heart health, kidney health, liver health, thyroid function, and fertility status.
All of our tests are designed to be easy to use, store, and transport, and we have chosen to use a non-invasive blood sampling technique known as dried blood spots (DBS). DBS requires only a small amount of blood to be collected from a finger prick and spotted onto filter paper, which is then dried, eliminating the need for special storage and expedited transportation back to the lab. This method has been shown to be practical and valuable in remote communities for monitoring hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.
Our goal at Genetrack is to continue creating simple and cost-effective test kits that are user-friendly and accessible to non-specialist users, particularly those in remote communities. Our diagnostic test kits based on dried blood spots will be available to all individuals so they can monitor and improve their health from the comfort of their own home. We believe that our innovative approach will help reduce the disparity in healthcare accessibility, not just in North America but around the world.