country gravel road and field

Frontier areas are the most remote and sparsely populated places along the rural-urban continuum, with residents far from healthcare, schools, grocery stores, and other necessities. Frontier is often thought of in terms of population density and distance in minutes and miles to population centers and other resources, such as hospitals.
Frontier areas face the same difficulties as other rural areas in maintaining their healthcare workforce, although those difficulties can be amplified. These thinly populated regions cannot easily compete with the wages and amenities offered to healthcare professionals by hospitals and clinics in metropolitan areas. Even communities that currently have adequate staffing are often one doctor or nurse away from a shortage.

This recently updated Health and Healthcare in Frontier Areas topic guide from RHIhub, provides resources and information about healthcare and population health issues in remote and sparsely populated areas. It also features a new FAQ on health-related infrastructure challenges in rural areas.

Examples of workforce models that have been used to address healthcare issues in frontier areas are:

  • Community Health Workers/Aides
  • Behavioral Health Workers/Aides
  • Community Paramedics
  • Dental Health Aide Therapists
  • Dental Therapists

Using recruitment and retention strategies include workforce programs that help improve supply and distribution of healthcare professionals through community and academic educational partnerships that include school-based career clubs, MCAT preparation and rural clinical internships and rotations.