The University of Nebraska Medical Center recently released its Rural Health Care Workforce Report.
The last report of its kind was published a decade ago.
Dr. Fernando Wilson, Acting Director of UNMC’s Center for Health Policy, says UNMC wanted to revisit the data in the previous study and find out if the distribution of the healthcare workforce in the state as well as the numbers of healthcare professionals in Nebraska had improved over the last 10 years.
Wilson says they used data on the healthcare workforce from different sources including the Health Professions Tracking Service and the state of Nebraska.
He says the report did in fact indicate there are more nurses and doctors in the state today than there were a decade ago.
"The other thing we found is there is still substantial variation on where these health professionals are located. So one thing that jumped out at us was you have a number of counties that don’t have access to a primary health care physician. So if someone needs a checkup or preventive care, you’re going to have to drive a significant distance to get access to that care.”
Wilson says some of the recommendations based on the study include: subsidizing telecommunications and other infrastructure to support adoption of telehealth care and supporting existing pipeline programs and educational initiatives that encourage healthcare professionals to practice in rural communities.
He says there also needs to be more research relating future health care needs to the workforce. For example, Wilson says we need to know if our health care workforce is growing at a high enough rate to accommodate the rise in the numbers of people who need help with chronic conditions.