How To Measure Quality: 4 Unique Challenges Rural Hospitals Face

  • Healthcare Management
  • medical management - Rural Hospitals
  • March 21, 2022

Rural hospitals can better serve communities by addressing physician shortages, social stigma, and patient insurance status.

Removing Barriers To Rural Healthcare

Rural hospitals face a diverse set of hurdles from a lack of physician coverage and patient access to negative profit margins. While rates of telehealth continue to increase nationwide, access to healthcare in rural areas remains uniquely challenging. Rates of mortality between rural and urban communities have dramatically increased over the past 20 years, reaching 18% in 2016. To improve rural healthcare, healthcare providers must address existing barriers to care, including physician shortages, insurance status, health literacy, and social stigma.

viralmd content marketing How To Measure Quality 4 Unique Challenges Rural Hospitals Face.jpg

Combating physician shortages

Having a reliable medical care source relies on a robust healthcare workforce. Around 61% of physician shortages were located in rural areas. Without an adequate number of doctors, the supply of care services dwindles. While medical care doesn’t guarantee lower mortality rates, open access to healthcare is foundational to preserving the vitality of rural communities.

Insurance status is key

People who lack the financial resources for proper treatment have less access to medical care. A recent study showed 12% percent of people in completely rural counties lacked health insurance compared with 10% percent for predominantly urban counties. Furthermore, the low rates of low-cost or pro bono care in rural communities limit sources of care for uninsured rural residents. To combat the cost of healthcare,
healthcare professionals must explore the possibility of opening healthcare centers specifically for low-income rural patients.

Health literacy empowers quality care

Without health literacy, patients are often hesitant to pursue medical care. A lack of health literacy creates a barrier to understanding healthcare information and instructions, creating frustration or misunderstanding in patients. Moreover, since rural communities often see higher rates of poverty and lower levels of education, the barrier to comprehensive healthcare becomes that much higher.

Privacy issues and social stigma

The stigma of certain health concerns and the lack of privacy often found in rural communities foster reluctance to seek medical help. Since many rural residents know local healthcare providers personally, little to no privacy heightens the barrier to pursuing care for ailments that are not often discussed. Patients may be unwilling to seek care for health concerns such as HIV, pregnancy, sexual health, mental health, and substance abuse due to the associated social stigma.

Achieving comprehensive rural care

While rural healthcare faces unique barriers to providing quality care, multiple strategies can improve patient access. By actively combating physician shortages, providing low-cost care options, promoting healthcare literacy, and fully committing to patient privacy, hospitals can provide quality rural communities with quality care.

Share This Content!

Ready to go viral?