Innovations in Rural Healthcare Environments Think Tank

A Think Tank Sponsored by the Schools of Architecture, Design & Planning and Engineering

March 11, 2016    ●     KU Adams Alumni Center    ●    The University of Kansas    ●    Lawrence, Kansas

As the United States becomes more urbanized, and the healthcare systems become focused on specialized and centralized delivery modalities, populations in remote rural settings are being underserved and marginalized.  The traditional methods and practice models of healthcare delivery that have served rural America for the past sixty years are becoming strained, and new approaches to sustaining the health of the rural population are required.  The state of Kansas – as well as the states throughout the Great Plains and agricultural Midwest – is facing a crisis in maintaining, upgrading, and replacing aging healthcare facilities.  Most rural hospitals, which were built during the post-World War II period under the Hill-Burton programs, have reached the end of their useful lives. Meanwhile, the increasing elderly population keeps adding pressure to the existing healthcare system. More than 16.5 percent of rural Americans are aged 65 or older, which is a higher proportion than in the rest of the country.  Rural healthcare facilities also face challenges in relation to energy access and efficiency, especially because buildings in this sector are the second most energy intensive building type. The reduction of energy consumption is essential for their financial health, especially in rural areas.  More importantly, rural hospitals play a major role in the economic vitality of small cities and towns. They serve as critical sources of employment and act as economic engines within their communities. In addition to its regional and national impact, research on rural healthcare design has strong global relevance. Many developing countries such as China, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America share similar challenges on their rural healthcare system and facilities. Lessons learned in the Midwest region in the US will be valuable for their counterparts around the world.

The purpose of this think tank is to bring together thought leaders to build an agenda for research in creating innovative rural healthcare environments.  The outcomes of the one-day gathering will be to define specific research topics, identify potential partners and funders to conduct this research, and prioritize future efforts and establish project timelines.  The think tank will be divided into four topical areas:

  • Healthcare Systems Challenges and Opportunities
  • Policy Implications for Rural Healthcare
  • The Role of Innovation and Technology in Rural Healthcare
  • Building an Agenda and Planning for Future Action


Contacts:             Professors Hui Cai ( and Kent Spreckelmeyer (