Providing reliable healthcare services has traditionally been challenging for hospitals and clinics for a variety of reason: funding, staffing, training, and even access to specialty care equipment can often be limited as well.
Additionally, providing healthcare to the rural areas also has a few other servicing factors including the distance and time-to-care required to provide quality patient care. And, the distance is only one part of the equation – often healthcare workers are navigating farmland areas, deserts and mountainous regions.
In Georgia, most of the overall landmass is rural. In fact, the Rural Health Information Hub estimated that over 1.8M (or 17%) of the state’s 10.7M people live in rural areas. As of January 2022, the state currently serves this population with (30) critical access hospitals, (104) rural health clinics, (153) federally qualified health centers, and (45) short term / PPS hospitals. To add to the complexity to serve this vast segment of the state, the poverty rate throughout rural areas is 19.4%, opposed to 12.4% in the urban areas of Georgia.
In order to adapt with the comprehensive set of healthcare needs across 10+ million residents, we’ve seen an increase of innovative private sector businesses rise up for the challenge (and the opportunity). The best example we’ve watched grow by serving is SouthlandMD, who provides a full suite of healthcare services including: Emergency Medicine, Hospitalist Medicine (for inpatient and outpatient), Behavioral Health, Outpatient Care, and Telemedicine.
SouthlandMD has clearly set the standard for providing affordable and accessible healthcare throughout rural Georgia, as they now operate with over (450) physicians, across (60) programs, and treating over (610,000) patients annually. Their servicing model is a brilliant solution that is tackling one of the most challenging aspects of healthcare – “rural communities”. SouthlandMD is physician-owned and provides operational management and staffing as they partner with hospitals and healthcare systems with an emphasis on quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction throughout Georgia.
Ensuring reliable staffing, increasing patient access and aligning high quality resources with demand are the pillars of the services requires to help people throughout rural areas of Georgia continue to see improvements across all areas of healthcare needs.
One of the most compelling offerings that companies such as SouthlandMD provide to rural hospitals is Emergency Medicine which is often a segment with high demand, high churn and requires tremendous operational excellence to run effectively. We’ve seen significant increases with patient satisfaction and ED operations when hospitals have partnered with specialist firms for ER staffing. Namely, standardized systems and training have proven to improve admission and discharge processes and patient flow, while providing hospitals with needed backfill and redundancy in times of staffing shortages with practitioners, or increased healthcare needs within their communities.
The past few decades have certainly seen the healthcare system struggle to serve the rural communities in almost of every state, however it’s clear that Georgia is indeed experiencing a different inflection point as companies such as SouthlandMD further partner with hospitals throughout the state’s rural areas. It’s encouraging to see this trend begin to reverse as patient satisfaction scores and patient expectations move in a positive direction as well.