Rural populations face unavoidable obstacle in case of stroke, heart attack

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Geography is an unavoidable obstacle when rural populations are faced with medical emergencies. After all, there are only so many emergency rooms and hospitals.

A recent story on CNN.com explored the challenges of providing care to those living in remote locations. Jeremy Brown, director of NIH’s Office of Emergency Care Research, noted the importance of time in treating stroke and heart attack.

"Every minute that you can get the patient into treatment sooner will represent some brain cells that are saved," he said.

Legislative efforts are being made to improve the situation. A bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, proposes changes to Medicare rules to allow hospitals to have an emergency room and outpatient care without hospital beds.

"A car accident or a heart attack is dangerous under the best of circumstances, but it's a lot more dangerous for someone who's far away from an emergency room," said Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa. "When a rural hospital closes, its emergency room closes with it."

Read the full story and see a map of underserved areas here: