Ensuring Health Across Rural Minnesota in 2030

November 2020

Boosting access to telehealth technology, investing in efforts to address health disparities and reforming payment structures to reward outcomes — those are just a few of the recommended ways to improve health care in rural Minnesota.

The Center partnered with The College of St. Scholastica to perform the study, with funding from the Mayo Foundation. The report concludes that taking steps to address rural health inequities is more critical than ever, as made clear by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than a quarter of all Minnesotans live in rural areas. In general, rural populations are older and becoming increasingly more diverse. Rural residents often face higher health disparities and lack access to key infrastructure to take advantage of growing telehealth opportunities. Current trends show that without any changes, rural populations will experience an increased rate of poor or fair health over the next decade.

The report offers a road map for policymakers on how to increase access to quality, affordable health care in rural Minnesota. Key policy recommendations include:

  • Ensuring rural residents have access to telehealth, home-monitoring, and other emerging technologies in health care;
  • Creating policies and payment structures based on quality outcomes, patient experience and efficiency from non-traditional sources;
  • Focusing social investments in rural communities to address health disparities and build community connections;
  • Addressing rural health vulnerability, especially in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Expanding innovative and flexible population health care and payment models that address financial pressures, promote population health, and ensure viable health services within rural communities.

The study includes an environmental data scan, a literature review of trends and disrupters, and a Summit of key informants to identify the vision of health, as well as disrupters and recommendations. Participants at the virtual Summit included both national and Minnesota-based leaders, providers, researchers, business leaders, and advocates. Demographic and financial modeling through 2030 identified priorities that rural stakeholders and policymakers should focus on to achieve rural health that is accessible, affordable and of high quality. Policy recommendations outline the key strategies required to support access to quality and affordable rural health in 2030.