How Fairview Is Responding to the Challenges of Rural Health Care

At Fairview, we are committed to providing the same high-quality care to all patients, whether they live in the heart of the city or in one of the many rural communities we serve.

Having always lived in rural areas, I have witnessed first-hand the impact of good, local health care services. These services strengthen not only the social fabric of communities—by providing for the health care needs of friends, family and neighbors in happy times and sad—but also their economic fabric. Without high-quality local health care services, both patients and economies suffer.

Yet, delivering care in rural settings presents a set of unique challenges. Among the most pressing are:

  • The need for more health care professionals is great: Recruiting health care professionals to practice in rural communities can be challenging. Not everyone is interested in working in a rural setting. For those who are, recruiting a health care professional often means a spouse must also find a new job. In addition, retiring baby boomers have added a heightened sense of urgency to filling the recruitment pipeline.
  • The cost of providing services is increasing, while payments are decreasing: Advanced healthcare technology such as electronic health records and advanced imaging scans like CTs and MRIs is extremely costly for small, rural health care providers. Compounding the issue, payments by Medicare and others do not adequately reflect the cost of the care provided.
  • Rural communities face distinct community health issues: Studies continue to support the case that rural areas face unique health challenges, such as limited access to transportation and mental health services. Demographically, these areas also tend to have an aging population with increasingly complex health needs.

What is Fairview doing to address these challenges?

We demonstrate our commitment to rural health care in many ways, including:

  • Recruitment: Fairview has very deliberately focused on a plan to recruit, retain and advance the skills of current employees to ensure a supply of health care professionals into the future.
  • Telemedicine: In collaboration with the University of Minnesota Physicians, we are exploring new ways to use technology to give patients access to specialty care while remaining in their home communities.
  • Managing costs: By being part of a large health care system, we can leverage our size to gain the best price advantage possible in the purchase of expensive technology. And, working collaboratively with other area health care providers allows us to deliver quality care at a lower cost.
  • Community health: Fairview completes an extensive community health assessment every three years, through which we identify the key health care needs in our service areas, including more rural communities. We then develop targeted plans to thoughtfully respond to those needs.

If you have ideas or suggestions on how we can better help you meet your health care needs, I invite you to share your comments on this blog.

Deb Boardman, FACHE
CEO, Fairview Range and Fairview North Region President

Deb Boardman, FACHE, provides leadership to the geographic region spanning from Wyoming, Minn., north to the Canadian border. This region includes Fairview Lakes, Fairview Northland and Fairview Range medical centers. Deb has spent her career working in—and promoting issues important to—rural health care. She has been active in national, state and local health care-related organizations, including the American Hospital Association regional policy board and the Minnesota Hospital Association board, where she served for more than a decade on several committees and as board chair. She has been a member of governor-appointed task forces on rural health care issues and has testified before state and federal legislative bodies. Deb also has served on various civic and community boards and currently is secretary of the Minnesota Safety Council board.

Related Articles