Unfortunately for rural providers, there is no easy fix. "What is driving that is personal preference on the physicians' part," Tudor says. "The vast majority of physicians and their families want to be in areas where there is access to good schools and good entertainment. It's a lifestyle decision, at the end of the day."
Admittedly, the news from the benchmark is downbeat. But let's not forget that providing healthcare in rural areas has sublime appeals.
"One of them is satisfaction," Tudor says. "If you are inclined to that type of work there is a great deal of satisfaction from helping those people and their communities. They tend to be very grateful for the care they get, versus a metro area where we have certain expectations of what a physician should be. People in rural areas tend to be grateful that they even have a physician."
Rural hospitals can also provide financial incentives to recruit physicians using funding that is made available if they are designated as a healthcare workforce shortage area by the Health Resources Services Administration. "That can be a good incentive for someone who comes out of medical school," Tudor says.
"I spoke with someone the other day who is $400,000 in debt from her medical school training. So rural hospitals do have some advantages in that respect, but you still have to find the people who are willing to go out and explore those possibilities."