The Emergency Department as a Potential Intervention Recruitment Venue Among Vulnerable Rural Residents
Meeting the health care needs of rural residents is complicated by their substantial medical burdens that frequently outstrip patient and community resources. Nowhere is this more evident than in central Appalachia. Preventive procedures are often sacrificed as patients and providers attend to more pressing medical issues. We report the results of a pilot study designed to explore the need for and appropriateness of a potential intervention placed in an emergency department (ED), with the eventual goal of using the ED to link traditionally underserved patients to preventive services. We used a convenience sample of 49 ED patients to explore their characteristics and health needs and compare them with a sample of 120 case management clients participating in the Kentucky Homeplace Program (KHP), and a general sample of 3,165 Appalachian Kentuckians. The recruited ED patients had low socio-economic status, numerous health conditions, and several unmet health needs, including need for colorectal, cervical, and breast cancer screening. Compared to their KHP counterparts, more ED patients were uninsured. Participants in the ED and KHP groups had particularly low income, were less educated, and had less insurance coverage than an average Appalachian resident. Although case management services, including the KHP have been successful in increasing access to health care by those in need, certain segments of the population remain underserved and continue to be missed by such programs. Our study suggests the need for and appropriateness of reaching out to such underserved populations in the ED and involving them into potential interventions designed to enhance preventive health services.