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Cureus. 2020 Oct 24;12(10):e11143. doi: 10.7759/cureus.11143.
Introduction Patients in the rural western United States face challenges accessing trauma and surgical services and are more likely to succumb to their injuries. New Mexico, a rural and medically underresourced state, is a salient space to study these disparities. We examine how travel distance from trauma centers impacts injured patient outcomes and describe care delivery obstacles. Materials and Methods We conducted an explanatory mixed methods study by creating geospatial maps of New Mexico’s trauma data, incorporating linear regression analyses on patient outcomes as a function of estimated travel distance from trauma centers. We also conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews with trauma providers to illuminate and provide context for the geospatial findings utilizing a systematic, collaborative, iterative transcript analysis process. We constructed a conceptual framework describing rural trauma care delivery obstacles. Results Geospatial analyses revealed that most New Mexicans face long travel times to trauma centers. Comparing regression analyses using different data sources suggests that solely hospital-derived data may undercount rural trauma deaths. Interviews with 10 providers suggest that elements that may contribute to these findings include on-the-ground resource-based challenges and those related to broader healthcare systems-based issues. Our conceptual framework denotes how these elements collectively may impact rural trauma outcomes and proposes potential solutions. Conclusions In addressing rural patients’ needs, healthcare policy decision-makers should ensure that their datasets are comprehensive and inclusive. They must also take into account the particular challenges of underserved rural patients and providers who care for them by eliciting their perspectives, as presented in our conceptual framework.