Introduction: Health disparities such as cancer and diabetes are well documented in Appalachia. These disparities contribute to health status, and by many indicators, Appalachian people are less healthy than those who live in other parts of the country. Access to health care is one factor that contributes to health disparities. Access to care is complex and involves both intrinsic and extrinsic aspects, including satisfaction with quality of care. This research sought to compare Appalachian to non-Appalachian communities in terms of perceptions of access to care.
Methods: We implemented a statewide survey to quantify perceptions of multiple components of access to care, including satisfaction with quality of care. We compared survey results to quantitative data from the County Health Rankings to document consistency with perceptions of access to care. We used chi-square analysis to compare Appalachian with non-Appalachian respondents.
Results: More than 600 people completed the survey. Results of the survey identify significant differences between Appalachian and non-Appalachian residents’ perceptions of access to care and their satisfaction with health care. Specifically, Appalachian residents are less satisfied with convenience, information, quality, and courtesy of health care. They perceive providers relying on stereotypes when communicating with patients.
Implications: Examining and documenting perceptions of health care is important because it could lead to improving access by focusing on cultural competency in addition to more resource intensive strategies. Health disparities in Appalachia might be minimized by being more compassionate and understanding of people who live here.
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Morrone M, Cronin CE, Schuller K, Nicks SE. Access to Health Care in Appalachia: Perception and Reality. J Appalach Health 2021;3(4):123–36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0304.10