People in rural areas often lose when it comes to health care. There are few large-population centers or cities, and with fewer cities there are also fewer medical facilities and health providers. In addition, the hospitals do not have the advanced equipment to handle complex cases. Residents of rural areas also suffer from the long distances from their homes to the hospitals. Health providers in these areas have to create solutions to address these conditions in order to provide the health care that they promise.

One advantage of transparency is that every stakeholder has the same data. They can communicate much faster and this leads to better individual health care. Sanford Health can also make use of the available data to study other methods and follow the best practices already in use by health providers.

A case in point is the Dakotas. Composed of North and South Dakota, the population is less than 1.5 million, spread over a little more than 148,000 square miles. To serve the medical needs of this area would require bold ideas and new technologies as well as different approaches. Sanford Health is one of the largest health care and delivery systems serving rural areas, including the Dakotas.

Sanford Health has an approach which adequately answers their needs to serve sparsely populated rural areas. Their bold solution involves the use of single electronic medical record (EMR), enterprise departments, remote medicine, and data transparency.

Electronic Medical Record (EMR)

Nurse, Patient, Doctor on conference call.

Using single data for more than 45 hospitals and 300 clinics helped Sanford Health to support rapid dissemination of common decision making tools. This allowed medical staff to help in the diagnosis of possible problems which the patient already has, but has not consulted with. If while at the clinic the patient has a high blood pressure reading, nurses follow these Sanford Health standard procedures. The EMR platform enables the system to improve control rates for patients at over 90%. The standard treatment for hypertension extends all throughout the system. The EMR platform has become an active practice used by nurses as a matter of regular patient care procedure.

Standards of care for different concerns were setup to ensure that all patients would have the same level of quality and the same procedures. Multidisciplinary teams were set up along a specialization or for a single disease to establish the standards of care. This ensures that all patients have the same level and high quality care wherever they may be.

Remote Medicine (Telemedicine)

It is a condition of the environment, large tracts and long distances separate cities and major hospitals from one another. To bridge the gap, remote medicine (telemedicine) procedures were set up. Specialists connect to their patients via remote access tools and teleconferencing. Consults with other doctors in large cities or in critical-access hospitals bring the medical support to the individual. The patients already travel a long distance from their home to the hospital, so meeting with a specialist who has a practice miles away is inconvenient. Sending the doctors around the state is a waste of their time. Scheduling video consults is for critical-health care and specialists also help lower the cost health-care.

Transparency means that Sanford Health has opened their database to other health service providers. This gives the patient better health care as he moves from one provider to another, or from one hospital to another. The standards used include the Minnesota Community Measurement which measures and reports on tested metrics and quality of ambulatory-care setting. One advantage of transparency is that every stakeholder has the same data. They can communicate much faster and this leads to better individual health care. Sanford Health can also make use of the available data to study other methods and follow the best practices already in use by health providers.

Sanford Health has improved its performance in delivering health care to rural areas despite the distances between patients and hospitals or clinics. This system could be replicated and applied to hundreds of rural areas in the U.S. and eventually in depressed areas in the world. This life saving and bold move is a definite game-changer in the health industry.

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