Coffee With BobWhile my blog is generally slated for Wednesday, I thought it would be OK to delay it until today. You see, today is National Rural Health Day.
National Rural Health Day is a day set aside by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) along with their partners and friends to share information and understanding of the challenges of providing health care to rural patients.
Of course here at NRTRC we believe the answer to expanding care availability to rural folks is telehealth. The NRTRC territory contains the only two Frontier States in the U.S., Alaska and Wyoming. Those states have a population density of less than six people per square mile. Montana just missed the Frontier designation with a count of 6.3 per square mile. And the other four states, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington each have a high percentage of counties with frontier designations. Because of these low population densities, all of our states have a high number of counties designated as Healthcare Provider Shortage Areas (HPSA). With that in mind, it becomes clear how challenging it is to get care to our residents. (I often tease my colleagues from back east who talk about rurality with population densities of a hundred or so per square mile. We in the big, square states know rural!)
And that’s why we say telehealth is the answer. Imagine a rancher who would have to travel six hours to a care facility to see a specialist. Would he or she leave home for a twelve-hour round trip with a ten-minute appointment in the middle? How do we get care to Native Alaskans villages so remote that the nearest road is miles away? No one should have to forego health care because of their location in this day and age of ready communication. Telehealth provides the answer and all 14 TRCs are standing by to provide assistance and encouragement to providers who want to reach out to folks in ‘the country.’
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