Education, telemedicine initiatives target rural healthcare gap

Struggling rural health organizations hope two initiatives will attract healthcare providers, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

South Dakota recently rolled out the Frontier and Rural Medicine (FARM) program, according to the article. FARM, implemented in July, involves third-year students at the Sanford School of Medicine working in rural hospitals for a nine-month period. The initiative aims to pique their interest in practicing in a rural community.

Meanwhile, the Rural Experiences for Health Profession Students (REHPS) program is in its fourth year. The initiative, based in Yankton, sends Sanford medical and physician assistant (PA) students, and South Dakota State University pharmacy and nurse practitioner (NP) students, to rural settings for a month at a time.

Healthcare leaders have long complained that graduate medical education neglects rural healthcare as it educates the next generation of providers, with a recent panel noting the difficulty of recruiting primary care providers for rural settings, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Mid-level healthcare professions such as PAs and NPs, long considered a potential solution to the primary care shortage, also help the rural healthcare landscape transition to a system that offers 24-hour, seven-day access, according to the article. Telemedicine aids in the transition as well--it tackles the problem of distance between patients and providers, Sanford Dean Mary Nettleman, M.D., told the Argus Leader.

"If there are areas that can't support or can't recruit a physician, technology has helped us quite a bit," she told the paper. "It might be possible to put a physician assistant in one of those communities and have them hooked up and backed up to such an extent that they could handle preventive medicine."

North Dakota has made similar efforts to bridge rural care gaps with telemedicine, although the efforts have encountered some regulatory obstacles, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the article