Underserved: A Conversation on Rural Health
CANYON, Texas – The Texas Tribune held a free panel discussion on rural healthcare at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas on Tuesday, November 5.
The program centered around multiple topics related to rural healthcare – Mental Health Treatments, Telemedicine, Legislative Options for assisting rural communities, and Medical Payment Reform to name a few.
Panelists for the event included:
-Mike Henderson, family medicine doctor in Childress, TX
-State Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian
-Holly Jeffreys, founder of Panhandle Family Care
-Billy Philips, Executive Vice President for Rural and Community Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
While many topics and ideas were shared, the panelists overwhelmingly agreed that the most significant key to better medical treatment in rural communities is to, as we say in West Texas “start ’em young”. The idea being that if a high schooler born and raised in that community is interested in the medical field and mentored around it, they are more likely to get a medical degree and come back to that same community to serve their families and neighbors.
Another proposed solution to better rural healthcare across Texas is to allow Nurse Practitioners to have Full Practice Authority, or the ability to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests and initiate and manage treatments—including prescribe medications. Currently, NPs in the state of Texas are not allowed to practice to their fullest, which panelists said puts stress on medical practices as a whole. If NPs were able to perform all tasks that are within their scope of knowledge, it would alleviate some of the tension that comes from not having enough doctors, for example, in that specific region.