More than a mission

by Dr. Bruce Murphy ([email protected]) 662 views 

As in many states across the United States, Arkansas’ healthcare industry has dramatically shifted over the last 25 years. Many providers have exited rural communities, choosing instead to base their practices in more affluent urban and suburban areas. Add in the lasting ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly concerning rural hospital closures, provider shortages, supply costs and availability – and you have a dangerous scenario for severely under-resourced communities.  

Every year on April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Health Day. In honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary, this year’s focus is on achieving Health for All “so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health and well-being.” The WHO notes, “the right to health is a basic human right…everyone must have access to the health services they need when and where they need them.” 

We’re used to hearing about food deserts, but it’s time we within the medical community focus on care deserts and the residents who are left behind and forced to travel further and further to receive adequate, necessary, essential healthcare services.  

According to a 2021 GoodRx study, 80% of the country lacks adequate access to healthcare. That means that over a third of the U.S. population lives in a county with less than adequate access to pharmacies, primary care providers, hospitals, trauma centers and low-cost health centers. Due to Arkansas’ rural makeup, it ranks among the five states that have the largest share of the state population living in a hospital desert.

At the Arkansas Heart Hospital, we see equitable healthcare as more than a mission; it’s our duty. We don’t pick and choose which patients to serve. Instead, we push ourselves to find solutions to serve everyone, everywhere. 

That’s why we proudly celebrate 25 years of serving all Arkansans. We were the first healthcare provider in the state to focus on community-based cardiology care, expanding our services beyond Little Rock, first into Benton, then Russellville and now in 26 communities across the state. 

Our clinical care, coupled with our free community resources like screenings, health fairs and more, allow us to identify cardiac diseases and related disorders earlier, improving patient outcomes and reducing the burden on rural acute hospitals. Basing our practice in these 26 communities makes prioritizing heart health more convenient, so our patients adhere to a more proactive, regular care routine. By doing so, we’re reducing costly visits to urban-based hospitals and the number of people who need overnight beds. 

On this World Health Day, the Arkansas Heart Hospital recommits to exploring opportunities to serve the 41% of Arkansans living in rural communities. To our 1,248,711 neighbors across the state, we see you. We know you deserve better. And we are committed to bringing you the highest level of care available. 

Editor’s note: Dr. Bruce Murphy is the CEO of Arkansas Heart Hospital. The opinions expressed are those of the author.