How to improve rural access to health care

By Ryan Schuster

When the local pharmacist in Drayton retired, it appeared that residents of the small town in northeastern North Dakota would be left without pharmacy services. But rural health information technology grant funds from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota allow a pharmacy in nearby Park River to expand telepharmacy services to Drayton. The grant award lets patients in Drayton continue to receive pharmacy services in their own community. The grant was one of seven rural health IT grants BCBSND awarded in 2011, totaling $375,000.

Since BCBSND started the grant program in 2001, 66 grants totaling more than $3 million have been awarded, strengthening the state’s rural health care delivery system. BCBSND funds the grants to improve technology, communication, collaboration and care delivery in rural areas throughout the state. The grant program is administered by the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota.

Rural health grants are featured in a new BCBSND ad running in publications across the state (left) and a new TV ad highlighting the story of member Gene Taszarek. Rural health grants are just one way we are investing in North Dakota and working to improve access to health care in rural areas. We are leading the way to find solutions to health care challenges in North Dakota.

What do you think? What more could be done to improve access to health care in rural areas?

Ryan Schuster works as an editor at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. Schuster previously served as business reporter and business editor at the Grand Forks Herald.

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