in a survey of 6,826 Medicare beneficiaries.
Taken as a whole, a similar quality of care was reported between the two groups, but the picture changed when racial/ethnic subgroups were considered. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic patients in rural locations reported inferior care to their urban counterparts, investigators wrote in.
“Cancer patients living in rural areas are vulnerable and have unique health care needs,” wrote lead author, of the National Cancer Institute, and her colleagues. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the patient’s perception of the timeliness of care in such a large, multiregion sample of cancer patients.”
In 2003, the National Academy of Medicine concluded that living in a rural environment was associated with poorer health. Existing research surrounding cancer has echoed this concern, showing that rural patients have higher rates of cancer and mortality, longer delays in diagnosis, and limited access to care.
The current, retrospective study involved 6,140 urban and 686 rural Medicare beneficiaries who were aged at least 65 years when diagnosed with either breast, lung, colorectal, or prostate cancer. Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys were conducted between 1998 and 2013, then linked with data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry program.
Surveys were conducted within 12 months of diagnosis, during which time patients were asked about their access to care as defined by two composites: “Getting Needed Care” and “Getting Care Quickly.” Getting Needed Care included ease of making appointments and receiving treatments and Getting Care Quickly questions asked about appointment delays and time spent waiting at the doctor’s office. Answers were converted to a numerical score from 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best.
For both composites, mean scores for urban and rural locations were greater than 85 out of 100.
In contrast to previous studies, urban patients reported longer delays in care, scoring Getting Care Quickly 2.27 points lower than rural patients (P = .02). Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic Asian patients from rural places reported even faster care, ranking about 8 points higher than urban patients of the same race/ethnicity.
Locality did not have a significant impact on Getting Needed Care unless race/ethnicity was also considered (P = .04). Non-Hispanic white patients from rural locations scored Getting Needed Care about 2 points higher than urban white patients, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic black patients had an opposite trend, with this rural cohort ranking Getting Needed Care lower than urban patients of the same race/ethnicity.
“Geographic residence is but one important factor in cancer care delivery,” the authors noted. “There is a need for fine-grained research looking at specific barriers for urban residents, experiences of racial/ethnic minority survivors residing in rural areas, and rural-urban differences in the clinic settings in which medical care is delivered.”
The authors had no disclosures to report.
SOURCE: Mollica MA et al. Cancer. 2018 Jun 7. .