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Rural cancer care may be closer than you think
Date:3/26/2013

Research from the University of Iowa suggests that cancer care is more accessible in rural areas than thought, and this increased accessibility should be considered as changes are made in the health care system under the Affordable Care Act.

Thomas Gruca, professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business and study co-author, found that significant portions of Iowa's population are, indeed, an excessive distance from full-service cancer care centers located in larger cities like Des Moines, Omaha/Council Bluffs, or Davenport. But his study finds that number drops significantly if visiting consultant clinics (VCCs) in rural hospitals are taken into consideration.

Gruca says rural VCCs host oncologists at least once a month from cancer centers in larger urban areas, and depending on the clinic provide a range of diagnostic, treatment, and post-treatment services. Using data from the Iowa Health Professions Tracking Center in the Carver College of Medicine, the study found that the median driving time for Iowans to the closest site for oncology care falls from 51.6 minutes to 19.2 minutes when VCCs are considered. According to federal guidelines, anything more than a 30-minute drive is considered an excessive commute to receive care.

Even from isolated rural towns, Gruca says the median travel time for cancer care dropped from 58 minutes to 26 minutes when VCCs were considered, well within the guidelines.

"Clearly, visiting consultant clinic sites are an important mechanism for providing medical oncology services in rural communities," Gruca says.

The study group's research found 80 VCCs in rural Iowa hospitals, serviced by 55 oncologists visiting from larger cities. He found 38 of the VCCs are visited by an oncologist once a month, 22 are visited two or three times, and 20 are visited four or more times monthly.

In the end, he says the proportion of Iowa's population outside of a 30-minute drive to an oncology car
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Contact: Thomas Gruca
thomas-gruca@uiowa.edu
319-335-0946
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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