A Healthier Heartland

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By Cameual Wright, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer for CareSource Indiana

Indiana’s mix of urban and rural communities provides a good opportunity to understand how interconnected our state’s health care landscape really is. No community is an island, and the ups and downs of one have more of an impact elsewhere than we may initially think. Accordingly, working collaboratively to promote preventative care and increase access in one area can help create healthier communities everywhere.

One of the most pressing issues in Indiana’s rural health care systems is a shortage of health care providers. Primary care physicians, specialists and mental health professionals are often scarce in rural areas, leading to disparities in access to critical services and lower health outcomes than in urban areas.

Research has found that more than two million Hoosiers live in areas that the federal government has designated as having a shortage of primary care providers. Additionally, 23.9% of Indiana’s counties are classified as maternal health care “deserts,” meaning places where women do not have access to even the most basic obstetric care.

As a nonprofit managed care organization, CareSource is committed to doing our part to help address these problems, including with increased community outreach, strategic partnerships with urban and rural providers and education institutions and more.

To help tackle the health care provider shortage in rural Indiana, CareSource is partnering with Marian University to create $250,000 scholarship for medical students committed to practicing primary care in rural areas. Given the high cost of medical education and the lower incomes from health care careers in non-metro areas, the scholarship will help alleviate financial barriers to practicing in rural communities. This is a good example of how an urban area’s educational strengths can be leveraged to benefit rural health care needs.

Having witnessed firsthand the difficulties faced by families seeking medical care in rural areas, Matt Turton, a fourth-year Marian College of Osteopathic Medicine student from South Lyon, Michigan, feels this partnership is a beacon of hope.

“Recently, I was the first medical professional that had spoken to one family, and while I was taking care of the mother who had a stroke, I realized I was helping the entire family since I ended up educating them about how hospital systems worked,” Turton said.

Another way CareSource is helping improve health care access in rural Indiana is by advocating for greater use of telehealth services. Transportation and provider shortages are overcome with telehealth and convenience. A health care divide is often replaced with a “digital divide” for communities with a lack of broadband internet access. Investments in telehealth infrastructure and broadband expansion are essential to overcoming this challenge and can bring economic benefits in addition to health care ones. It is important for all health care organizations everywhere to raise awareness of how broadband expansion and telehealth services can break down barriers to care in rural Indiana.

Mobile health care services and paramedicine programs from urban health systems can also aid rural communities by overcoming access challenges. Volunteering with and donating to organizations that operate mobile health care services, food security programs and other resources can have a significant impact as well. By working together to address social determinants of health, including food insecurity, poverty and lack of access to resources, we can all make great advancements toward reducing disparities and improving health outcomes statewide.

It has been said that “rising tides raise all ships.” Through innovation, fostering partnerships and leveraging shared resources, rural and urban communities can work together to build a more resilient health care ecosystem that benefits all Hoosiers, regardless of their geographic location — leading to a healthier state.

About Dr. Cameual Wright, MD, MBA

Dr. Cameual Wright, MD, MBA is the chief medical officer for CareSource Indiana, a nationally recognized non-profit managed care entity that administers one of the largest Medicaid-managed care plans in the U.S. The organization offers health insurance, including Medicaid, Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicare products.

About CareSource

CareSource is a nonprofit, nationally recognized managed care entity with over 2.3 million members. Since its founding in 1989, CareSource administers one of the largest Medicaid-managed care plans in the U.S. The organization offers health insurance, including Medicaid, Health Insurance Marketplace, and Medicare products. As a mission-driven organization, CareSource is transforming health care with innovative programs that address the social determinants of health, health equity, prevention and access to care.

Contact

For media inquiries, please contact:

Indiana Contact: Robert Vane, CEO and President, Veteran Strategies, 317.696.9443, robert@veteranstrategies.com

CareSource HQ: Hannah Krafka, Sr. Media Relations Specialist, 937.751.4862, Hannah.Krafka@caresource.com