Recruiting Physicians To Small Communities: Set Your Doctors Up For Success

  • Healthcare Management
  • medical management - Rural Hospitals
  • September 12, 2022

In small communities, setting up physicians for success looks like workforce training programs, recruiting specialists, and more.

Creating Successful Physicians In Small Communities

From doctor shortages to shrinking rural populations, small hospitals often face higher rates of closure than urban care centers. Rural Americans have higher rates of unintentional injury and some chronic diseases than urban residents, creating a demand for specialists. Remaining profitable and helpful to the local community hinges on ensuring doctors have the necessary resources to support patients properly. Securing patient satisfaction depends on prioritizing workforce training programs, recruiting specialists, and offering financial incentives to new doctors.

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Calling all specialists

Americans in rural areas are more likely than city dwellers to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and stroke. Unintentional injury deaths are approximately 50% higher in rural areas than in urban areas, partly due to the greater risk of death from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses. Rural residents also tend to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages and have worse outcomes. As a result, the need for specialists such as cardiologists, endocrinologists, OB/GYNs and radiologists are high. If a specialist is unavailable, telehealth appointments can provide a solution in the interim. However, caring for rural communities requires financial incentives for doctors with specialized care.

Financial incentives

Approximately 20% of the US population lives in rural communities, but only 11% of physicians practice in such areas. In some cases, recruiting young physicians to rural areas is complicated based on the community, job and education options. With medical school loans to pay for, bolstering loan forgiveness programs and offering competitive salaries can help hospitals attract new physicians. Advocating for risk adjustments to include social risks such as disability and poverty can help even out the overall cost of medical care. Practicing in underserved areas should be rewarded. Offering doctors financial incentives through loan forgiveness, stipends, and sign-on bonuses to settle in small communities helps both the individual practitioner and the greater community.

Giving doctors the tools they need

About 60% of the time, primary care provider (PCP) shortages happen in small communities. A regular source of primary care is a crucial indicator of healthcare access and the overall health of a community. Rural hospitals fail to provide comprehensive care without enough healthcare staff trained to manage patient needs and experiences. Workforce shortages are routine, but care centers can replenish missing personnel by proactively training current staff.

Health is wealth

Investing in the community’s overall health allows healthcare practitioners to provide a higher level of care. Solutions must be tailored to the issues and concerns of the area. Specifically, telehealth shows promise as a solution to a lack of access to rural healthcare. Telehealth bridges the gap between rural patients and doctors by lowering barriers to care and limiting time investment. Deploying modern solutions builds a foundation for providing robust medical services across small communities for decades down the line.

A better future for rural health

While rural hospitals face many challenges, quality care is within reach. Changing physician recruitment approaches can help. A few key strategies can increase patient support while setting doctors up for success. Boosting satisfaction looks like prioritizing staff training, hiring specialists, and offering financial incentives to new doctors.

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