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Lack of Non-emergency Medical Transportation Affects Elderly Citizens in Rural Areas

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Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) is a service that helps patients get to and from their healthcare appointments. This type of transportation service is especially important for older adults, as well as for people with disabilities and other healthcare mobility needs. There is a lack of availability for rural areas to find NEMT service providers.

People over 65 are more prone to experiencing cognitive loss and vision impairment, which can prevent them from using public transportation or driving themselves. They are more likely to stay home due to limited access to transportation, as well as them not wanting to be a liability on their loved ones. Having access to transportation can help older adults maintain their independence and avoid having to move into an institution.

Low-income older women are especially vulnerable to experiencing transportation issues. While almost 90% of women over the age of 50 drive, the figure drops dramatically for those aged 75 and above. Not having a car or not being able to drive can lead to gaps in patient care and cause isolation, especially for those residing in rural areas. The difficulty these patients face is tremendous, with very limited options in transportation, especially for regular appointments. Taxis are not fit to transport such patients as they do not have the required equipment, as vehicles need to be fitted with proper equipment to ensure passenger safety. With such a disparity between the number of patients and the number of available vehicles licensed to handle these patients, the requirement of and dependence on non-emergency medical transport is at an all time high in rural areas.

The availability of transportation is a critical component of healthcare services that low-income individuals need to maintain their independence and avoid experiencing costly hospitalizations due to lack of transportation that results in missed appointments. Most of the reasons why people use these services are to access preventive treatments, such as dialysis, mental health services, and physical therapy. If a patient misses an appointment, it can cause their treatment / recovery to worsen, which ends up being more costly for the patient. The demand for NEMT has been increasing steadily, so more companies are emerging with the goal of ensuring safe transportation, specifically to reach low-income individuals residing in low-serviced rural areas.