The obstacles faced by healthcare providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different than those in urban areas. Workforce shortage problems, socioeconomic factors and health inequity envelop a broad range of issues that create healthcare disparities impacting the health of individuals and communities at large.

According to a 2017 CDC study, residents of rural communities are at greater risks of dying from unintentional injuries, cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases in comparison to residents of urban areas.

The Great Plains QIN encompasses four states, all of which are largely rural. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released its Rural Health Strategy, which could directly benefit many of the health systems in our region. The strategy is intended to provide a proactive approach on healthcare issues to ensure that the nearly one in five individuals who live in rural America have access to high quality, affordable healthcare.

The agency-wide Rural Health Strategy, built on input from rural providers and beneficiaries, focuses on five objectives to achieve the agency’s vision for rural health:

  • Apply a rural lens to CMS programs and policies
  • Improve access to care through provider engagement and support
  • Advance telehealth and telemedicine
  • Empower patients in rural communities to make decisions about their healthcare
  • Leverage partnerships to achieve the goals of the CMS Rural Health Strategy

This new strategy focuses on ways in which the agency can better serve individuals in rural areas and avoid unintended consequences of policy and program implementation. Work on the strategy is already underway. Click here for more information.

On the positive side of a sometimes rather bleak outlook for recruiting and retaining healthcare workers in rural areas, a recent article in the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota featured the practices of two rural healthcare providers describing their love for practicing rural medicine. Click here to access the article.