A growing community has certain needs. In a city like Lake Havasu City, where a considerable portion of its residents are retirement-aged, the availability of healthcare is chief among them. That’s been particularly challenging in Havasu in recent years — while our population has swelled to more than 55,000 people, our medical resources have not. Havasu residents often have a hard time getting in to see a healthcare provider in a timely manner. If a person wants to see a specialist, the backlog can take weeks or longer. It’s more than a simple annoyance — a county study in 2016 found that local residents die earlier than their counterparts in like-sized communities, with many of the deaths attributed to preventable illnesses such as chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia.
While that lack of doctor access is an acute problem here, it’s not just the local area that’s feeling the pinch. A recent report from the University of Arizona’s Center for Rural Health says approximately 42 percent of residents have their primary care health needs met by a primary care provider. While Arizona’s population is among the fastest growing in the nation, the state ranks near the bottom in doctor accessibility.
Thankfully, a new law could help address some of those concerns. Arizona’s new telemedicine law improves coverage for telehealth and expands telehealth resources in the state. That could be a gamechanger for Havasu and Mohave County.
The new law, signed by Ducey a few months ago, adds new technology platforms for doctors to connect with patients, and it boosts payer coverage, which had previously been limited to certain specialties, and eliminates geographical restrictions. The bottom line? Patients in Lake Havasu City will more easily be able to get quick coverage, no longer bottlenecked by a lack of local resources.
What the law doesn’t address, however, is the lack of internet resources many rural communities also deal with. It’s one thing to pave the way for better communication between doctors and their patients, but all of that efforting is moot if the information highway can’t handle the heavier traffic it requires. In Lake Havasu City, that’s probably not a problem, but you don’t’ have to travel very far to find rural Arizona communities that need improved broadband internet. There aren’t going to be easy answers – and certainly no inexpensive ones – but solutions for that problem ought to be explored in the next legislative session just the same.
— Today’s News-Herald