National Rural Health Day: Recognizing the challenges and successes of rural medicine.

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Rural Health in America

Crickets chirping, sprinklers spraying, or cargo trains running down the track are just a few of the possible sounds one might hear on an average night in rural America. Whether it’s a slower pace of life, larger lots of land, or getting away from the crowds, there are many reasons people have chosen to leave bigger cities for small town living. During the pandemic, urban centers nationally had 15% more move-outs in 2020 than 2019.

In a June 2021 survey by Caprelo, up to 75% of respondents said they would consider relocation if post-pandemic remote work continues. With the COVID-led shift to remote work, employers are offering more and more opportunities to make telecommuting possible, and many people are choosing to shift away from larger metropolitan areas.

While there are positives to living in rural America, there are also tradeoffs. In rural America, the medical experience, including access to specialized medical care, selection of doctors and availability of necessary prescriptions, can be limited. The third Thursday of every November is set aside as National Rural Health Day, which highlights the unique health care challenges that rural citizens often face. With more than 57 million Americans in rural communities, these challenges need to be addressed.

What Brings Medical Providers to Rural America?

Recruiting doctors to practice in rural America can be extremely difficult, so much so that the Rural Health Information Hub has an entire section, Recruitment and Retention for Rural Health Facilities, dedicated to assisting in recruiting physicians. When Rural healthcare facilities and communities can help job seekers consider some of the rewards that balance out the challenges of a rural position. Positive aspects of rural practice can include:

  • Rural practitioners can experience a greater sense of mission and accomplishment because they serve an area of need. Additionally, doctors often find they have more of a voice in the decisions being made in smaller hospitals.
  • There are personal rewards for both providers and their families: less traffic and faster commutes, a lower cost of living, assistance in paying off loans, and many other factors that make rural life an appealing choice.
  • Working in rural practices can lead to opportunities for leadership or preceptorship.


When asked about the pros and cons of practicing medicine in a rural setting, Kyler Black, M.D. had this to say, “There are a lot of benefits. You have the opportunity to be a leader in your community. You get to know your patients very well. They are your friends, neighbors, and people you see everywhere you go. This is great because your reputation precedes you. If you take good care of people and treat them right, word quickly spreads, you fill up fast, and you earn people’s trust. This can also be difficult if there is a poor interaction, misunderstanding, or bad outcome, as word spreads quickly in a small town. Specialty care, likewise, can be a double-edged sword. Because you don’t have as many specialists to refer to, you increase the breadth and depth of your knowledge. This makes you a better, more-informed provider. However, there is not the same access to community resources, especially for children. When I practiced in Phoenix, I was able to refer children to reading or learning specialists, centers specifically for autism, etc. Those types of services simply don’t exist where I practice now.”

What Can Prevent Access to Service?

Not only is there a shortage of specialty services but rural communities often are disproportionately affected by a shortage of qualified health care providers, leading to 68% of shortage areas in health professionals in rural and frontier communities. Rural areas also struggle to provide services for mental health challenges. According to the National Rural Health Association, the following factors can be particularly difficult when attempting to providing mental health services in rural communities:

  • Accessibility – Rural residents typically don’t have access to service in their immediate area and often have to travel long distances to receive services. They are less likely to be insured for mental health services, and providers are less likely to recognize a mental illness.
  • Availability – There are chronic shortages of mental health professionals. Often mental health providers are more likely to practice in urban centers.
  • Affordability – Some rural residents may not be able to afford the cost of health insurance or the cost of out-of-pocket care if they lack health insurance.
  • Acceptability – Rural residents may be more susceptible to the stigma of needing or receiving mental health care in small communities where everyone knows each other.

What’s the Good News?

The news is not all doom and gloom for those seeking medical care in these areas, as 50% of rural local health departments report operating school-based health clinics, with a higher likelihood than their urban counterparts of providing services like: immunizations, maternal and health services, behavioral and mental health care, and home health care.

Additionally, access to prescriptions is better than ever before for those utilizing IPM’s broadest network of pharmacies, the Open Network. The IPM Open Network contains more than 67,000 stores that saturate local regions throughout the United States. All major chains, and most independent pharmacies, are part of the Open Network. Couple IPM’s Open Network with its mail order pharmacy program, and refilling a prescription, or even over-the-counter medication with a prescription, is easier than ever.

In partnership with AllianceRx Walgreens, IPM is able to provide a convenient online ordering and delivery process that provides customers with seamless access to medication. It’s easy to activate and/or add family members and update home delivery intel and preferences. All prescriptions are eligible for free standard shipping, and automatic refills remove the added step of remembering to order fills.

Whether it’s the culmination of a lifelong dream or the decision to move home to be closer to parents, people are on the move, and with that comes the need for access to medical care and prescription services. IPM stands ready to provide a comprehensive pharmacy network and mail-order services to accommodate residents in ocean front properties or in the Heartland. Where you chose to get your medication is entirely up to you.