"Just by way of statistical reminder, 20% of America's population is living in rural areas and we have probably less than 10% of America's physicians serving that population," he says. "That is true for a variety of reasons, but in some areas it is very difficult to recruit the kinds of physicians that are needed, particularly primary care physicians."
Bengtson sees that as "a real problem because we've got over 2,000 rural counties in America that are designated as health professional shortage areas. That does make the work really hard. One of the toughest jobs is going to be to replace the workforce we have now."
Bengtson says one of his priorities as leader of the AHA's Small or Rural Hospital's Section will be to advance population health.
"I want us to be learning from each other. I do see where the Small or Rural Governing Council has a think tank operation where we can figure out who's doing what that is going to be most effective to bring good programs to rural populations in the future, with the intent of improving care, with the intent of improving the health of the population and lowering costs," he says.