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Rural Health
Top Stories

Top news stories from the past 60 days. For more, see news by topic or news by state.

Jul 18, 2019 - Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $20 million in grants to develop new rural residency programs as part of the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program (RRPD). The grant recipients span 21 states and will develop rural residency programs for family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry to help improve the number of healthcare providers serving rural communities.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jul 17, 2019 - Rural communities in several states with the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose deaths also had the highest portion of pain pills distributed by major drug companies, a new analysis from The Washington Post shows. West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky along the Appalachian Mountains were hit particularly hard. (Subscription may be required to view article).
Source: The Washington Post
Jul 17, 2019 - In the midst of rural hospital closures, some communities are collaborating to keep their hospitals open and even expand. A rural community in Alabama kept Lakeland Community Hospital open by taking ownership and increasing taxes. Kalispell Regional Healthcare opened a pediatric floor in Montana and McKenzie County Hospital in North Dakota just celebrated its first anniversary.
Source: U.S. News and World Report
Jul 16, 2019 - Today, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee launched the Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force. The task force will discuss rural health challenges and develop bipartisan policy solutions to address them. The task force's first meeting will be July 25.
Source: U.S. House Ways & Means Committee
Jul 11, 2019 - The 2017 Quality Payment Program performance information is now available, allowing patients to find and compare Medicare clinicians in order to make informed decisions about their healthcare. The number of Qualified Advanced Alternative Payment (APM) Models in Advanced APMs nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018. Nearly 85% of small practices surpassed the scoring threshold for a positive payment adjustment, up from nearly 74% in 2017.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Jul 11, 2019 - The Health Resources and Services Administration presented 2019 Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project Awards to 10 states having the highest reporting rates and levels of improvement in Critical Access Hospitals in the past year.
Source: Heath Resources and Services Administration
Jul 11, 2019 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is hosting a free Virtual Job Fair Wednesday, August 7, 2019 from 7:00 – 10:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is designed to connect primary care trainees and providers with healthcare facilities looking to fill vacancies.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
Jul 10, 2019 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposes establishing a three-year program to support bringing telehealth services to low-income patients and veterans. The FCC fact sheet Promoting Telehealth for Low-Income Consumers provides a discussion of the project and instructions for filing comments.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
Jul 10, 2019 - A recent study indicates that many low-income rural senior citizens face difficulty in getting enough to eat. The problem is particularly severe in the southeastern United States, where 9 of the top 10 states for senior food insecurity are located.
Source: Daily Yonder
Jul 9, 2019 - The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is launching an Academy-wide strategic initiative to improve healthcare in rural areas. The goals are to influence policy and payment issues, address educational needs for physicians, support recruitment of physicians to rural areas, and help family physicians improve rural health disparities.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Jul 9, 2019 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the formation of a Quality Summit, which will bring together industry stakeholders and government leaders to discuss how current programs can be adapted to deliver a value-based care model to improve outcomes for patients and access to care. The goal, as described in the Quality Summit fact sheet, will be to improve reporting on data and quality measures, in keeping with President Trump's Executive Order on price and quality transparency in healthcare. Nominations for participation in the Summit will be accepted via email to DeputySecretary@hhs.gov until July 21, 2019.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jul 8, 2019 - Jamestown (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center closed in June, and at present the roughly 2,000 residents of Fentress County must travel at least 45 minutes to receive hospital care. Local government officials and the West Palm Beach-based company that bought the hospital a year ago are at odds about the future of the facility.
Source: Modern Healthcare
Jul 8, 2019 - A Michigan collaborative comprising public and private funders, state government, and an insurance company has received a $5 million series of grants to remove barriers to effective treatment for opioid use disorder. The initiative will encourage adoption of medication-assisted treatment, prioritizing rural areas, and will emphasize care that puts patients first.
Source: Inside Philanthropy
Jul 8, 2019 - Lower income is associated with a shorter lifespan, which has previously been attributed to higher rates of drug and alcohol-related deaths. A new study argues that this difference is due to inequity.
Source: 100 Days in Appalachia
Jul 7, 2019 - Nearly a quarter of rural Americans have used some kind of telehealth service, as shown by a new poll on rural life and health. Barriers still remain though, including broadband access and insurance regulations.
Source: National Public Radio
Jul 6, 2019 - Discussion with 3 chief financial officers regarding the impact of hospital size on decisions regarding consolidation, price transparency, outsourcing, risk-based contracts, and cost accounting. Includes CFOs from 2 rural hospitals. (Subscription may be required to view article.)
Source: Modern Healthcare
Jul 5, 2019 - Home meal delivery services for the elderly can help them remain in their homes, such as Memorial Meals in Ohio. Finding people willing or able to drive long distances to rural homes can be a challenge for services that depend on volunteers, particularly as many of the volunteers are themselves retirees.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch
Jul 5, 2019 - Rural-Urban Exchange Programs are being used to create productive dialogue and relationships between those in rural and urban locations of states across the country who are all working to build healthy sustainable communities.
Source: Stateline, Pew Charitable Trusts
Jul 3, 2019 - Summarizes a meeting of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) opioid response grantees, held on June 18, 2019 in Rockville, MD. Includes brief comments from Dr. George Sigounas, HRSA administrator; Betty-Ann Bryce, Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Tom Morris, associate administrator of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
Jul 2, 2019 - Highlights the FCC's Connected Care pilot program which will be voted on in a meeting on July 10, 2019. The program would provide funding for broadband services to support telehealth programs for underserved populations, especially low-income, veteran, and those in rural areas.
Source: FierceHealthcare
Jul 1, 2019 - Partnerships with local higher education institutions are helping address rural health workforce shortages. These partnerships may help hospitals hire healthcare professionals after graduation, offer loan repayment or scholarship incentives in return for agreements to work in rural areas, or create training opportunities in rural communities.
Source: Forbes
Jul 1, 2019 - A few weeks after Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed, its cancer clinic followed. Now its patients have to drive 50 miles or more for lifesaving cancer treatments. Part of a series on the impact of Mercy Hospital's closure on rural Fort Scott, Kansas.
Source: Kaiser Health News
Jun 27, 2019 - The Indian Health Service and Cherokee Nation Health Service announced a new HIV pilot as part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative. The Cherokee Nation pilot will build on the success of their Hepatitis C prevention and treatment model and increase the number of patients screened for HIV. Findings will be shared with other communities to support their efforts in ending the HIV epidemic in Indian Country.
Source: Indian Health Service
Jun 25, 2019 - The Empty Chair Project in rural Pikeville, Kentucky, reminds the high school's students that drug addictions leave empty chairs in their lives. Now several high school students are developing an app with information and resources on substance abuse to help fight addiction.
Source: PolitiFact West Virginia
Jun 25, 2019 - The National Institutes of Health offered a workshop on Achieving Health Equity in Preventive Services as part of its Pathways to Prevention (P2P) workshop series; the workshop addressed rural health equity among other issues. The draft systematic review for the workshop is now available and the draft panel report will be posted soon. Comments on the systematic review are due July 17.
Source: National Institutes of Health
Jun 25, 2019 - Proposed changes to the Medicare area wage index would increase payments for some rural hospitals, funded by decreasing payments to other hospitals. The area wage index currently adjusts Medicare reimbursements based on area labor market wages, which means rural areas with lower wages receive lower reimbursements.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Jun 24, 2019 - Rural hospitals are looking to transform factors they can control to help improve rural health. Atrium Health in Wadesboro, North Carolina replaced an aging, money-losing hospital with a new hospital to serve as a medical home for population health and primary care, as well as emergency services, and their finances and the community's health have improved. Marshfield Medical Center—Ladysmith in rural Wisconsin is likewise refocusing on population health.
Source: Health Leaders
Jun 24, 2019 - Bipartisan legislation introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives would improve mental health telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries under the Beneficiary Education Tools Telehealth Extender Reauthorization (BETTER) Act of 2019. The legislation also includes provisions extending rural provider payment protections, provides funding for the National Quality Forum and a consensus program for Medicare quality measures, reduces barriers for rural and community hospitals who want to start a graduate medical education program, and more.
Source: U.S. House Ways & Means Committee
Jun 22, 2019 - Hospital closures, workforce shortages, and lack of medical insurance have left many in rural Tennessee relying on temporary free clinics like those provided by Remote Area Medical for their healthcare needs. While these temporary clinics provide much needed help, more is needed. (Subscription may be required to view article.)
Source: The Washington Post
Jun 18, 2019 - The Indian Health Service (IHS) is requiring their facilities to identify area opioid use disorder treatment resources and create an action plan to provide access to medication assisted treatment (MAT). IHS has been taking other actions to prioritize combating the opioid epidemic, including educational opportunities and policies to help increase access to MAT in tribal communities.
Source: Indian Health Service
Jun 18, 2019 - Interview and transcript focusing on a program in rural Wyoming to help people manage their health, HealthyU. The program volunteers role play and help brainstorm solutions for managing medical issues to help participants decrease doctor visits and hospitalizations.
Source: National Public Radio
Jun 17, 2019 - A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would allow healthcare providers in training to provide services to veterans using telemedicine. The VA MISSION Telemedicine Clarification Act of 2019 is intended to expand access to care for veterans and help healthcare providers gain experience using telemedicine as part of their training.
Source: mHealthIntelligence
Jun 14, 2019 - Rural hospital maternity care closures are on the rise, putting rural women of reproductive age at greater risk of pregnancy-related deaths. Low birth volumes, Medicaid reimbursement, and workforce shortages are just some of the reasons behind obstetrics unit closures.
Source: U.S. News and World Report
Jun 13, 2019 - A recent study published in Military Medicine found that rural veterans were prescribed a third more opioids than urban veterans. The biggest difference in volume was for long-term prescriptions.
Source: Stars and Stripes
Jun 13, 2019 - Navajo Nation, like many reservations, is remote. Remoteness, unpaved roads, distrust of government, and lack of internet or at times electricity make Native Americans on tribal reservations among the most difficult to count for the decennial Census. And those numbers have consequences for federal funding. (May require subscription to view.)
Source: Los Angeles Times
Jun 13, 2019 - While federal funding is helping rural communities address the opioid epidemic, drug addictions can encompass multiple substances. In 11 states, opioids were responsible for less than half of drug overdose deaths, as use of substances like methamphetamine are on the rise.
Source: National Public Radio
Jun 12, 2019 - Adventist Health Early All-Around Detection (AHEAD) Program in Northern California attempts to address gaps in preventing cancer in the rural area for patients with a high genetic predisposition. When patients didn't show up for genetic counseling, they realized they needed to bring those services to the local primary care clinics.
Source: Patient Engagement HIT
Jun 12, 2019 - Rural hospitals are using savings from the 340B drug pricing program to remain open and provide care for the underserved, according to a new report surveying more than 1,300 hospitals. Other uses include providing services such as transportation and reducing preventable readmissions.
Source: 340B Health
Jun 12, 2019 - Community development specialists at a conference on the rural U.S. support investing in rural communities. Regional development organizations and public-private partnerships have both had success in financing rural initiatives.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Jun 5, 2019 - An increase in rural sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates from 2016 to 2017 reminds health officials of the importance of educating rural residents about these diseases. Some programs like "It's a Girl Thing" focus on broader issues like self-esteem to help encourage people to make healthy choices.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Jun 3, 2019 - A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives targets Medicare reimbursements for ambulance services in rural areas. The Non-Emergency Ambulance Transportation Sustainability and Accountability Act of 2019 shifts Medicare cuts to ambulance services to nonemergency transports to and from dialysis facilities.
Source: Office of Congressman Darin LaHood
Jun 3, 2019 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a change in how Medicare payments are calculated that is intended to increase reimbursement for rural hospitals. Rural hospitals are hoping it will help address disparities in payments under the current wage index rule that provides lower payments to hospitals in areas with lower median wages.
Source: Kaiser Health News
May 30, 2019 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released two funding opportunities for states related to maternal health. The first provides $18 million through the State Maternal Health Innovation Program to help improve maternal health outcomes and address maternal health disparities. The second provides $2.5 million through the Supporting Maternal Health Innovation Program to a cooperative agreement to help support states through a resource center and capacity building.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
May 30, 2019 - The Health Resources and Services Administration's cycle for the 2019 National Health Service Corp New Site Application has been extended to June 13, 2019. The program has expanded eligibility to include facilities that provide general substance use disorder treatment, medication assisted treatment, and/or opioid treatment services.
Source: HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce
May 29, 2019 - The National Rural Health Association announced the top 20 Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in the U.S. The hospitals will receive their awards at the Critical Access Hospital Conference in September and were selected based on the Hospital Strength Index and 8 performance indicators.
Source: National Rural Health Association
May 24, 2019 - Changes in rural definitions and population growth in successful rural areas reclassify many rural areas as metropolitan. Thus, the nonmetropolitan U.S. declines, at least on paper.
Source: The Washington Post
May 23, 2019 - The Rural Health Care Access Act of 2019 was introduced today by Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Mark Green (R-TN). The legislation would remove the requirement that rural hospitals must be at least 35 miles from another hospital to qualify for Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation. Tennessee has had more rural hospital closures than any other state except Texas and many rural Mississippi hospitals are also at risk of closure.
Source: Office of Congressman Mark Green
May 22, 2019 - The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act of 2019 (ECHO 2019 Act) was introduced today by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The legislation builds on the 2016 ECHO Act to expand the use of technology-based collaborative learning and capacity building to increase access to healthcare services in rural areas.
Source: Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
May 22, 2019 - The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act was introduced today by Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) to help increase the number of doctors in rural and underserved communities. The legislation would extend the Conrad 30 Waiver program until 2021 and increase the number of waivers available to states under certain circumstances, among other changes. The program allows doctors studying in the U.S. from other countries to obtain a visa after medical residency in return for practicing in a rural or underserved area in the U.S. for at least 3 years.
Source: Office of Congressman Brad Schneider
May 22, 2019 - A new study shows that a team-based approach is effective in rural settings for working with patients to manage diabetes. While previous research has shown this model works well in a primary care setting, this was the first study that focused specifically on a rural community. Includes a Q&A with the study author.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
May 22, 2019 - A new study shows that broadband access in rural areas limits the ability of rural residents to use telehealth for accessing psychiatrists and primary care physicians. The research found that the same areas without enough psychiatrists and primary care physicians were also less likely to have sufficient internet speeds for video-based telehealth.
Source: Fierce Healthcare

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