Introduction: Adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) face a unique set of medical, psychological, and social challenges, and access to specialised adult congenital heart disease care has been associated with improved outcomes. Rural adults with CHD may represent a uniquely disadvantaged group given additional challenges when accessing specialised care. The aim of this study was to investigate the challenges faced by adults with CHD in accessing outpatient cardiac care, with a specific focus on understanding differences between urban- and rural-dwelling patients. Methods: This cross-sectional, survey-based study took place in the adult congenital heart disease clinic at an urban academic medical center. Additional medical information was abstracted in a retrospective manner from the electronic health record. In addition to descriptive statistics, t-tests and Chi-square tests were performed to investigate differences between urban and rural dwelling patients. Results: A total of 100 patients participated in the study (mean age 40 ± 13 years, 60% female, 18% rural dwelling). Across the total sample, the median driving distance to clinic was 20 miles (interquartile range 12-77); it was 15 miles for urban dwellers and 77 miles for rural dwelling patients (p < 0.001). The most commonly identified barriers to cardiac clinic visits were financial losses related to taking time off from work (39%), distance of clinic from home (33%), and weather (33%). Compared to urban dwelling patients, on average those who were rural dwelling had a lower level of education (p = 0.04), more difficulty paying insurance premiums (p < 0.001) and copays (p = 0.005), and were more likely to identify the distance from clinic (p = 0.05) and having to go into the city (p = 0.02) as barriers to clinic appointments. Conclusions: The financial impact and distance to clinic were the most commonly identified barriers to outpatient cardiac care in this cohort of adults with CHD. These barriers, along with difficulty paying insurance premiums, are more common in rural dwelling patients. Initiatives such as telemedicine visits or providing financial subsidies for travel and treatment could help to expand specialty adult congenital heart disease care and better serve this growing patient population.
- congenital heart disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine