Affordability, telehealth and a trained, motivated workforce are the keys to keeping the engine of rural health care running smoothly. A Heartland Forward report outlines strategies policymakers and community leaders in rural America can use to improve healthcare access and services.

Many rural hospitals in the U.S. face a funding crisis. Many small, independent hospitals face possible closure or consolidation through acquisition as they struggle with finances. One in 10 hospitals in Texas and more than half of Mississippi's rural hospitals are at risk of shuttering.

The report analyzes data from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, where Heartland Forward convened focus groups and expert interviews, but researchers see potential applications for its concepts nationwide. Authors found three areas with the most possible impact:

  • Increasing price transparency and working to reduce complexity in understanding the health care system can lead to residents using it more often for preventive care rather than acute care.
  • Expanding access to telehealth by lowering policy barriers for providers and normalizing the tools for patients.
  • Boosting the health care workforce through training, streamlining licensing regulations and providing advancement opportunities for practitioners.

Read the full article about rural healthcare affordability by Al Cross at The Rural Blog.