Nebraska Launches Regional Networks to Provide Health Care in Rural Communities

Practice Sights: State Primary Care Development Strategies

From 1993 to 1998, the State of Nebraska Department of Health launched five regional networks that have improved access to care in rural areas, offered managed care products to rural consumers, and enhanced recruitment and retention efforts of rural physicians.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Practice Sights: State Primary Care Development Strategies national program.

Key Results:

  • The state launched five regional networks that have improved access to care in rural areas and offered managed care products to rural consumers.
  • Recruitment and retention efforts included:
    • Technical assistance to communities.
    • An expanded scholarship and loan repayment program that has placed 102 practitioners in five years.
    • The use of telecommunications to improve education and reduce professional isolation.
    • The establishment of a locum tenens network to provide coverage for practitioners.
  • The number of rural doctors has held steady from 1992 to 1996, stemming the losses of the previous decade.
  • The number of Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) declined from 58 to 38, and the number of rural communities actively recruiting physicians declined from 60 to 30.
  • A legislative coalition, called the Rural Health Stakeholders Group and Legislative Coalition, which includes almost one third of the state's legislators, identifies legislative priorities, prepares issue papers, and evaluates new legislation relating to rural health issues.
  • Four economic development districts operate regional loan funds for capital development projects.

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