Access to affordable, quality, and timely health care can help prevent diseases and detect issues sooner, enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. While part of a larger context, looking at clinical care helps us understand why some communities can be healthier than others.
Advances in clinical care over the last century, including breakthroughs in vaccinations, surgical procedures like transplants and chemotherapy, and preventive screenings, have contributed significantly to increases in life expectancy. Care continues to evolve, with promising advances in fields like tele-health and care coordination leading to improved quality and availability.
Despite these advances, many individuals do not have access to a provider. Nearly 30 million Americans remain without health insurance, generally considered the first barrier to receiving quality health care. Others do not access health services because of high deductible costs, language barriers, distance to a provider, or lack of specialists in their geographic area or health network. Those without regular access to quality providers and care are often diagnosed at later, less treatable stages of a disease than those with insurance, and, overall, have worse health outcomes, lower quality of life, and higher mortality rates.
Health care access and quality also vary widely both by place and by race, ethnicity, and income. It is important to dig into the data to understand how clinical care factors differ within each county.
In the Clinical Care area of the County Health Rankings we look at: