According to recent studies, 19.3% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. Those same regions only hold 10% of the nation’s clinicians. If you’re struggling to meet the needs of your rural patients, these staffing and clinic suggestions, along with healthcare giveaways, may be just what the doctor ordered.
Reconsider your staffing needs
If your clinic is struggling to meet patient demands, hiring physician assistants or nurse practitioners may help. Studies show that these employees can be just as effective as their full-fledged physician counterparts in providing basic care. Just remember, the extent of what non-physicians can legally treat or prescribe varies from state to state.
If you add more non-physician staff to your clinic or facility, make sure your patients know they’ll have improved access. Mail patients a tri-fold postcard that introduces new staff members and explains what services they provide.
Examine and address community challenges
Rural patients sometimes have challenges that need to be addressed by the community. For example, patients may not have transportation or may not be able to afford a special diet recommended by a physician. Survey your patients to uncover what barriers they face. Use the information to improve access to care. For instance, maybe ridesharing is an option for those who don’t have transportation. Or perhaps there are discount coupons available for a recommended nutrition supplement or formula. Give a wellness promotional items to those who participate in your survey. A nutrition guide along with the message that says, “Thank you for helping us keep you healthy” is one option.
- Staff will require training on virtual care technology, online communication and privacy.
- Patients must have access to the technology required for a virtual visit, including internet access and a computer, smartphone or tablet.
- Some patients may require assistance navigating virtual care.
To get interested patients started with telehealth, designate a staff member to answer questions or walk them through registration. Encourage patients to give it a try with a healthcare giveaway like a wellness tracker and med organizer or an Exercise Band.
Trade inpatient for outpatient services
In some cases, a change in focus from inpatient services to outpatient can help alleviate rural health challenges. For example, switching from a primary care clinic to a short-term urgent care facility may help provide patients with access to the medical care they need, when they need it. If you change the focus of your clinic, be sure to let patients know. Provide this information on an oversized magnet along with a wellness promotional item like a pocket bandage kit to remind them where to go for all their medical needs.
Make care convenient
Meet the needs of your rural patients no matter what their challenges are. With a closer look at your patients’ needs—and these healthcare giveaway ideas—you can ensure your office and its staff offer the best care.