Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bipartisan report says not all rural areas need a hospital

According to a new study by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a one-size-fits-all approach won't work in curing rural America's health care woes. BPC and the Center for Outcomes Research and Education spoke with more than 90 national thought leaders and key stakeholders about the state of rural health in the Upper Midwest states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

They wanted to understand the real-world implications of federal health policies, discover what health-care challenges the area is facing, and identify ways rural health care could improve. The report could be useful to policy makers in other parts of the U.S., since the problems found are not unique to the Upper Midwest.

One conclusion of the report that could surprise or upset many people: Not every rural community needs a hospital. The Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital Act proposes turning critical-access hospitals in some communities from inpatient care centers to rural emergency centers or other useful facilities.

The report also recommends creating funding mechanisms for rural health care that reflect specific problems in rural areas, such as low population and high operating costs. It also recommends that rural communities start grooming young, local residents to become health-care workers through middle school, and high-school programs that encourage their interest. Finally, the report recommends expanding telemedicine services, noting that broadband availability is an ongoing problem in doing so.

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