Healthcare in Rural America Transforming for the Better

Radically Rural Track: Rural Healthcare

SESSION ONE (Sept. 22, 10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.)

Keeping Healthcare Alive and Thriving in Rural Communities

Healthcare is a prime focus for small communities, not just looking to transform their well-being, but their economies, too, says one of the lead speakers in Radically Rural’s Healthcare Track.

  Jeanne Ryer, director of the N.H. Citizens Health Initiative (NHCHI) is passionate about how multiple stakeholder collaborations can revolutionize health systems in rural locales, building more sustainable communities. 

  With 15 years in healthcare philanthropy, Ryer’s has focused on building systems of care that are high-quality, low-cost and accessible. From 2003-2011, as director at the  Endowment for Health, she focused on state and federal health system reforms, safety-net health services and community transportation, all in New Hampshire. She has been a driving force behind developing and implementing the Safety Net Loan Fund, a working capital resource for primary care, mental health and oral health clinics. She also served as senior program officer for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, covering statewide health issues.

  Ryer says that access to healthcare “means access to health, access to care and access to coverage.”

The stats are in: Rural populations are often plagued with worse health outcomes than urban counterparts, and she notes it is time to make a change. She says that distance, socioeconomic, cultural, attitudes toward vaccines, and place- and space-based realities cannot be reasons for poor healthcare. 

  For her session at Radically Rural, “Keeping Healthcare Alive and Thriving in Rural Communities,”

Ryer will offer two ways in which rural communities can help their healthcare sector thrive.

  The first, Project ECHO, is a “revolutionary guided-practice model that reduces health disparities in under-served and remote areas of the state, nation and world.”

  ECHO helps rural providers connect to centers with more expertise and provides a platform for knowledge to be shared. Founder Dr. Sanjeev Arora will join the session by video to discuss how ECHO acts as a “force multiplier” by providing patients in rural areas with medical insight from a wide range of experts around the globe. 

  The second resource, telehealth, is a digital information and communication platform that allows individuals to access and manage healthcare remotely. Telehealth has made advanced healthcare attainable for people living in medical deserts and has been an indispensable tool used throughout the pandemic to minimize patient/provider contact. Ryer will discuss the pros and cons of telehealth with panelists working in the field. 

  “As these tools evolve and mature, we will start to bridge gaps in care and improve communication and coordination,” she says.

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