Report Tackles Rural Health Care

Published Online: Wednesday, December 1, 2004

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies' new report?Quality Through Collaboration: The Future of Rural Health?outlines steps that should be taken to guarantee that 20% of Americans living in rural communities are not left behind in the movement toward improved quality and safety of health care delivery in the United States. The report addresses the need for special attention to non-metropolitan health care systems. Unique challenges that face these areas include the availability of trained health care professionals, access to care settings, and technology.

Rural communities usually have higher segments of older residents who need more health services. Health problems are also frequently compounded in remote areas where distances impose an additional limit on ready access to care. Highlights of the report include:

  • Recommendations for adapting practical guidelines, standardizing measures and public reporting, providing rural care settings with technical assistance to improve quality and benchmark their progress
  • Steps for increasing the number of health care professionals available and willing to practice in rural environments. Suggestions focus on improving health professional education and training in rural areas. Also, innovative ways to expand health professional students' opportunities to experience care delivery in rural settings or train in areas that are particularly vital to nonurban settings

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