Health providers are not always located where patients need services. In general, rural and low-income areas have substantially fewer health care providers, especially specialists, than urban, high-income areas. Some racial and ethnic groups are substantially underrepresented in health professions compared to their presence in the general population, often making cultural competence more challenging. These underrepresented minorities (URMs) include Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives.
Different health reform strategies are being developed to help with this maldistribution of health providers:
- Incentive Programs: Providing support to health care providers who locate to areas where their services are in demand
- Pipeline Programs: Exposing young adults to health careers to encourage them to enter the health field and return to practice in their community
- Telehealth Services: Using electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support long-distance health care, patient and professional health education, public health, and health administration