Rural Montana : mobile health clinics
Mensch, Denise Lee
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Residents of rural areas are faced with many barriers when accessing health care. Fewer health care providers, longer wait times for appointments, availability of employment providing health insurance, weather and road conditions, as well as personality traits including strong wills, independence, and self-sufficiency are some of the barriers rural residents face. This study's purpose was to explore the potential benefits of a mobile health clinic providing primary care to rural residents. The research questions were: (a) how do the people of this rural community meet their health care needs, (b) what health care services are lacking in this community, (c) if a mobile health clinic came to this community, would rural residents utilize the services it will provide, (d) are there any specific health care services rural residents feel should be available through the mobile health clinic, and (e) do rural residents feel a mobile health clinic would be beneficial for them. Penchansky and Thomas' (1981) framework on the five dimensions of access, availability, accessibility, accommodation, affordability, and acceptability, guided the study. Results revealed that, while the participants have access to health care, that access is approximately twenty miles away for basic health care services and approximately seventy miles away for tertiary care. Several participants states that due to the distance, they only sought health care in emergent situations and if they were sick. Eleven of the twelve participants believed that their community was lacking in access to health care. When asked if a mobile health clinic would be beneficial to their community, all twelve participants said yes. All but one participant stated that they would use the services a mobile health clinic would provide if it was available to them. Characteristics of a mobile health clinic that were reported as appealing included personality of the provider and staff, frequency of visits, and dependability. Unappealing or concerning characteristics included financing, inconsistency, and the health care provider's attitude toward patients. Implications and recommendations for practice include the need for further research on the use of mobile health clinics and how to maximize health care delivery in rural areas.