Texas rural healthcare receives low scores on report card

Texas rural healthcare receives low scores on report card

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Brownfield Regional Medical Center is one of many rural hospitals in Texas that has felt the effects for the Affordable Care Act. Brownfield Regional Medical Center is one of many rural hospitals in Texas that has felt the effects for the Affordable Care Act.
LUBBOCK, Texas -

Rural health care in Texas received a D- in a "2017 Rural Health Report Card" by "Rural Health Quarterly."

The Texas Tech publication ranked the Lone Star State 36th out of the 47 listed when it comes to providing health care to rural areas. New Hampshire ranked first while Mississippi was last.

"When you look at this composite score they consider three categories, mortality, quality of life and access to care and really it starts with access to care," said Steve Beck, Senior V.P. of Administration for Covenant Health. "There are like four categories in access of care and Texas got an F in all of them."

Nearly 10 percent of rural hospitals in the state have closed since 2013. Beck said those closures are a huge deal especially when you take into account the distance between communities.

"When you lose that access to care then the mileage becomes a very critical issue and it's really important that we maintain healthcare," Beck said. "That's one of the few things we're going to have to figure out in the future through public policy, through financial policy, is what type of care can we maintain in these rural communities."

Editor and Chief for "Rural Health Quarterly" Scott Phillips said in order for Texas to raise its ranking, policy makers are going to have to start using the tools available to reach out into smaller communities.

"We have suddenly over the last 20 years so much we can do with technology," Phillips said. "With telemedicine and telehealth, we can do video conferencing, we don't have to have a specialist in your small county, we can have a specialist video conference with your small town doctor and give you the care you need without having to make you move into Lubbock."

Beck said it is going to take more than just technology to fix this rural health problem.

"We're going to have to get physicians in these rural communities and whether that's on a state level or a federal level that we provide some type of loan assistance for their medical loans from school," Beck said. "Some incentive to encourage them that just makes it worth their while to be out in those communities but we're going to have to find a way to close the gap on the number of physicians per residents in these rural communities. Without that, I don't think we're going to bend this curve."

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