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Rural Health & Human Services Top Stories

Top news stories from the past 60 days.

Family Doctor Shortage Expected to Grow Worse
Aug 21, 2014 - Highlights the growing shortage of primary care physicians in Washington, especially in rural and low-income areas. A push to fund programs that train residents in rural locations may be part of the solution.
Source: KIRO TV (WA)
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In Rural States 'Pastoral Counselors' Help Fill Mental Health Gap
Aug 20, 2014 - In an effort to overcome the shortage of mental health service providers, especially in rural areas, Kentucky recently became the sixth state to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. While reimbursement from insurance providers was a major factor in the state's decision to license pastoral counselors, it is unknown what that reimbursement might look like.
Source: Stateline
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Nurse Practitioners Fill the Gap
Aug 20, 2014 - This article discusses a lack of healthcare specialists in rural communities and a possible solution, nurse practitioners. It argues that by expanding the scope of service of nurse practitioners, by adjusting current regulations on the profession, we can better address the lack of specialists in rural communities. Currently 31 states impose restrictions on nurse practitioners, such as requiring these nurses to have a doctor's oversight.
Source: AARP
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Transatlantic Ultrasound Marks New Territory for Telehealth
Aug 20, 2014 - Discusses new telehealth technology that enables a physician, from across the Atlantic Ocean, to perform an ultrasound examination using a robotic arm to examine the patient. This has significant implications for rural and remote communities throughout the country.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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Rural Health Facilities Provide Quality Care
Aug 19, 2014 - This article argues that you don't always have to go to a big city hospital to get quality care. It describes the reasons why a doctor made the choice to work in a small and rural hospital setting over a large, urban setting. Outlines some benefits to working and receiving care in a smaller hospital.
Source: Kansas First News
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How Did a Rural NH Hospital Achieve Stage 2 Meaningful Use?
Aug 19, 2014 - This one-on-two interview with two leaders of a rural, Critical Access Hospital offers insight into how the hospital was able to achieve Stage 2 Meaningful Use, despite being one of very few eligible hospitals of any size to do so. The Director of IT Rick Frederick and Clinical Informatics Specialist Tamra Deming discuss how close collaboration between IT and clinical staff was key to the success of the process.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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Livingston County Takes Mental Health Services 'To The People'
Aug 18, 2014 - Residents of Livingston County, Illinois are receiving more access to mental health professionals through an initiative by Livingston County Mental Board in partnership with OSF St. James John W. Albright Medical Center. The board provides money for a therapist to travel to doctor's offices in Chatsworth, Fairbury, Flanagan, Dwight and Cullom for weekly visits with clients. It not only provides needed healthcare services but also allows discretion in seeing a mental health professional which helps avoid stigma in a small community.
Source: The Pantagraph
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USDA Tribal Collaboration Strengthens Food Security on Nevada’s Indian Reservations
Aug 18, 2014 - Discusses Beyond the Hub, which is a United States Department of Agriculture collaborative effort with local partners based in Nevada to address nutrition and health issues on nine American Indian reservations. The education pilot, based on the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in 2012, aligns with USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative in the state, which focuses on capacity building for Native American tribes.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
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NC Task Force Offers Prescription for Improving Rural Health Care
Aug 18, 2014 - The Task Force on Rural Health, led by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and the state government’s Office of Rural Health and Community Care and funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, released a report on Monday concerning improvement of rural health. The report makes a number of recommendations to improve rural healthcare with a focus on education and economic activity.
Source: News Observer
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Extending the Reach of Care Through Telehealth
Aug 17, 2014 - This article discusses the merits of telehealth for serving small and rural communities and how the technology has developed over the years in both Canada and the United States, as told by experts from Manitoba and Minnesota.
Source: Healthcare Informatics
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Is Stage 1 More Challenging than Stage 2 Meaningful Use?
Aug 15, 2014 - Discusses the experiences of Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center with meeting meaningful use requirements. The Critical Access Hospital, which just completed attestation for Stage 2, found that the initial transition from paper to electronic health records was the hardest step in the process.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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VA Expands New Care Program, but Providers May Balk at the Low Rates It Pays
Aug 14, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding a program to allow Veterans to receive care from non-VA providers. Article reports that provider participation is a concern. The program's payment rates may not exceed Medicare rates, although there is an exception for highly rural areas. (Full access may require free registration)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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NAACP to File Restraining Order to Save Rural NC Hospital
Aug 14, 2014 - The North Carolina NAACP and the town of Belhaven plan to deliver a motion for a temporary restraining order against Vidant Health, the NAACP announced Thursday morning. The restraining order is being requested in response to what the NAACP calls "continued neglect of the Pungo District Hospital facility." This is the latest chapter in the story of protest against rural hospital closure in Belhaven, NC; prior to this the Mayor marched 273 miles to Washington D.C. to draw attention to the closure.
Source: WNCN
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Rural Areas See Higher HIX Premiums, Fewer Options
Aug 13, 2014 - According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, people in rural areas mostly have fewer coverage options. The article discusses some of the findings of this study.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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Medical Students Focus on Direct Primary Care, Rural Health, Among Other Topics
Aug 13, 2014 - Medical students met at the 2014 National Congress for Student Members, The American Academy of Family Physicians, to discuss and pass resolutions aimed at addressing healthcare disparities in underserved, rural areas. One highlighted theme is education of primary care physicians and the importance of student loan forgiveness programs, which contribute to recruitment and retention of these physicians in rural areas.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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First Ever “Project ECHO” for Multiple Sclerosis Launched
Aug 13, 2014 - The University of Washington MS Center and the National MS Society are proud to launch the first ever “Project ECHO” for multiple sclerosis, a rural outreach program funded by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation Patient Link Program.
Source: Deborah Hertz, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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Rural Clinicians Hear Need for Better Care for War Veterans
Aug 12, 2014 - The article discusses how psychiatrists practicing in rural areas will need a complex understanding of military-related issues to treat a growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans returning to those areas.
Source: Psychiatric News
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CMS Adds Pelvic Exam to List of Approved Stand-Alone Preventive Services
Aug 11, 2014 - Rural Health Clinics may bill Medicare for screening pelvic exams as a stand-alone visit when the patient received no other preventive services from the clinic on the same day, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced last week.
Source: American Hospital Association
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Executive Roundtable: Community Hospital Affiliation Strategies
Aug 11, 2014 - Executives from community hospitals, larger tertiary facilities and Community Hospital Corp. discuss what regional strategies look like in their markets and how facilities of all sizes can benefit from working together in a strategic regional relationship. It discusses affiliation benefits to small and rural hospitals when partnering with large tertiary hospitals.
Source: Becker's Hospital Review
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VA Announces New Grants to Help End Veterans Homelessness
Aug 11, 2014 - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the award of approximately $300 million in grants that will help approximately 115,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 301 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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Minnesota Responds to Rural Doctor Shortage with Teams, Training, Telemedicine
Aug 11, 2014 - This article discusses the changing of the rural healthcare landscape, highlighting the aging and lessening of primary care doctors. It covers new telemedicine technology, legislative to support it, innovative team-based approaches to healthcare, and efforts to train more doctors to curb expected lack of professionals and to increase healthcare access and quality in rural communities in Minnesota.
Source: MinnPost
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The HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Announces Creation of Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy (OTAP)
Aug 10, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is creating an Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy (OTAP) to bring together in one office several of the tribal functions within SAMHSA. OTAP will serve as SAMHSA’s primary point of contact for tribal governments, tribal organizations, federal departments and agencies, and other governments and agencies on behavioral health issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in the U.S.
Source: National Indian Health Board
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Intermountain Enhances Emergency Ground Transport Options
Aug 10, 2014 - The article explains a new approach to providing emergency medical care to rural and frontier areas in Utah, Intermountain's new Life Flight Ground Transport program. As the first of its kind in the nation, the program aims to place specialty-trained nurses aboard ambulances when Life Flight helicopters can't perform a transport.
Source: KSL Broadcasting
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Can Walmart Help to Solve the U.S. Healthcare-Access Crisis?
Aug 8, 2014 - This article discusses the possibility of Walmart opening primary care clinics in their retail locations. This is slightly different than the CVS and Walgreen urgent care model that currently exists since Walmart clinics are billing themselves as primary medical providers. This would be significant for rural residents since Walmart also maintains a strong rural network of stores, which could help address healthcare disparities.
Source: Fortune
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Obama Signs VA Reform Bill Into Law
Aug 7, 2014 - President Obama on Thursday signed a $16.3 billion bill to overhaul the troubled Veterans Affairs Department. The bill, approved by Congress last week, would allow veterans to seek private care outside VA facilities, and would also provide money for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses. This is especially important to rural areas where veterans have had to drive long distances to their nearest VA facility.
Source: The Hill
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Congress Tries to Tie Telehealth Expansion to Medicare Reimbursements
Aug 7, 2014 - A new Congressional effort seeks to expand telemedicine by allowing Medicare reimbursement for more treatments – and more people. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2014 was introduced in July by U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA.) and Gregg Harper (R-MS). If passed into law, the expansion of telehealth services would come in three phases over four years, beginning in counties with populations of less than 50,000 and extending in time to larger counties.
Source: mHealth News
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Medicaid Reform Could Cut Deep at Rural Hospitals
Aug 6, 2014 - This article weighs the options for the North Carolina state legislature as they decide how best to reform their Medicaid system. It points out the significance of this decision on small and rural hospitals since they are often unaffiliated with larger corporations and often serve a higher percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries than urban hospitals.
Source: The Associated Press via The Kansas City Star
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Report Highlights Economic Importance of Rural Community Health
Aug 5, 2014 - This article announces a publication by the Joint Economic Committee that highlights the economic importance of keeping rural communities healthy. 'Keeping Rural Communities Healthy' provides an overview of characteristics of rural populations, rural health statistics, barriers to healthcare in rural areas, economic implications of rural healthcare, and relevant policy actions to keep rural America healthy.
Source: Agri-Pulse Communications
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Rural Residents Pay More for Exchange Plans than City Dwellers: Report
Aug 5, 2014 - This article discusses the findings from a data brief that examines 2014 premiums, issuers, and plans offered to residents of urban and rural counties. Disparities in both price and number of coverage choices were found between states with a small rural population and those with a significant rural population. (Full access may require free registration)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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CMS Issues Final Payment Updates for FY 2015
Aug 4, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services late this afternoon released final payment updates for a few different programs.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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QUERI Initiatives to Improve Access to Care
Aug 4, 2014 - The VA's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) Program is devoted to improving Veteran care by supporting the implementation of effective treatments or programs into clinical practice. Access to healthcare for rural veterans is a concern to the QUERI program, demonstrated by a study to improve diabetes care through use of telehealth.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs
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Family Physicians Successfully Team With Nonphysician Health Professionals
Aug 1, 2014 - The American Academy of Family Physicians article discusses the findings from a recent research article published in the Journal of Rural Health. This research found that rural family physicians were more willing to work, and are currently working more, with mid-level healthcare professionals, which allows family physicians in small rural communities the ability to be away from the office while ensuring that patients still have access to primary care.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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Sen. Murray Unveils Bill to Boost Rural Doctors
Aug 1, 2014 - Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Friday unveiled a new bill to bring more doctors to rural areas and help underserved populations. The Community-Based Medical Education Act of 2014 would continue funding the Teaching Health Center (THC) program, which is set to expire next year, until 2019.
Source: The Hill
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HHS Awards $54.6 Million in Affordable Care Act Mental Health Services Funding
Jul 31, 2014 - Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced today $54.6 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support 221 health centers in 47 states and Puerto Rico to establish or expand behavioral health services for over 450,000 people nationwide. Health centers will use these new funds for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals, adding mental health and substance use disorder health services, and employing integrated models of primary care.
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
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Deadline for ICD-10 Allows Health Care Industry Ample Time to Prepare for Change
Jul 31, 2014 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule finalizing Oct. 1, 2015 as the new compliance date for health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses to transition to ICD-10, the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases. This deadline allows providers, insurance companies and others in the health care industry time to ramp up their operations to ensure their systems and business processes are ready to go on Oct. 1, 2015.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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40% of Rural Patients Stay at City Hospitals
Jul 31, 2014 - Offering further coverage of the National Hospital Discharge Survey that was published this month, the Daily Yonder highlights the finding that many rural patients “bypass” rural hospitals and get admitted at urban facilities. The study also found major differences in the number of procedures that patients received.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Jenkins’ Bill on Health Care in Rural Communities Passes out of Committee
Jul 30, 2014 - Legislation introduced by Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-02), H.R. 4067, was reported favorably out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by a 31-11 vote. H.R. 4067 bill will correct this problem by extending the direct supervision requirement moratorium through the end of 2014 and give rural hospitals the certainty they need to continue to provide efficient services to their communities.
Source: Hays Post
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SNAP Benefits and Rural Households
Jul 30, 2014 - A new report by the Center for Rural Affairs Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) by where people live. The report also examined SNAP usage in households with older and younger residents. This article explains some of the key findings of that report and its important to rural communities.
Source: Center for Rural Affairs
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Keeping It Real: Preceptorship Exposes Students to Importance of Rural Family Medicine
Jul 30, 2014 - A blog post by American Academy of Family Physicians' president, Reid Blackwelder, M.D., discusses the importance of recruiting medical students to rural primary care to help offset workforce shortages. It highlights a program, Appalachian Preceptorship, which is designed to expose medical students to rural primary care practiced in a manner sensitive to the culture within an Appalachian community.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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Compromise Reached on Vets' Healthcare
Jul 29, 2014 - Congressional leaders appear to have reached a compromise on a bill to improve healthcare for military veterans, many of whom have been struggling with long waits at Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities. This article offers some analysis on implications of the bill on veterans living in rural communities.
Source: MedPage Today
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‘Medicaid Expansion Still Very Important’ on Reservation
Jul 29, 2014 - This article discusses the healthcare challenges faced by the American Indian community, the financial importance of Medicaid to Indian Health Service funded facilities, and an argument for its continued importance to the quality of healthcare offered to the American Indian community. It also discusses some avenues being explored to expand Medicaid coverage in Wyoming.
Source: WyoFile
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Deficiencies in America's Rural Roads Causing Fatalities, Finds Report
Jul 28, 2014 - This article discusses findings from a recent transportation study which contribute to healthcare in rural areas. It finds that inadequate or lack of road safety features, longer emergency vehicle response times and the higher speeds traveled on rural roads compared to urban roads were all found to be major factors in the higher traffic fatality rate found on rural, non-Interstate routes.
Source: Global Construction
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Mayor of Rural NC Town Where Hospital Closed Finishes Protest Walk to Washington
Jul 28, 2014 - A mayor from North Carolina has just ended a 273-mile march to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to not only his rural hospital closing, but a larger rural healthcare struggle. This collection of articles offers a variety of perspectives on the act of protest and what is hoped to be achieved.
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Fact Sheet: Increasing Investment in Rural America
Jul 24, 2014 - This week, the White House Rural Council will host the inaugural Rural Opportunity Investment Conference (ROI) to promote potential investment opportunities that exist throughout rural America. In conjunction with this event, the White House Rural Council is announcing a $10 billion dollar investment fund to promote rural economic development. This fund will continue to grow the rural economy by increasing access to capital for rural infrastructure projects. Target investments of this fund will include rural community facilities with an emphasis on healthcare and educational facilities.
Source: Office of the Press Secretary
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Rural Means Older and Sicker, Data Confirms
Jul 23, 2014 - This article highlights new data released from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, confirming that rural healthcare delivery and its effects are significantly different than those of urban healthcare.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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VA to Help Rural Patients Access Blue Button, HIE Tools
Jul 23, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a contract to Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. (CCSi) with the intention of helping rural veterans access Blue Button and other health information exchange technologies to facilitate care coordination and access to healthcare resources. The contract will place community coordinators in each of the 55 rural VA medical centers whom will instruct veteran patients on how to access their personal data held in the Blue Button Download system, as well as train clinicians on the benefits of Direct and other HIE tools.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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Sac-Osage Hospital in Osceola Will Close in August after 45 Years
Jul 23, 2014 - One of the last independent community hospitals in the Ozarks will close its doors by Sept. 1. Sac-Osage Hospital, located in Missouri, opened in November 1969 but has struggled financially in recent years.
Source: KY3
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HRSA: Availability of Interpretive Rule: Implementation of the Exclusion of Orphan Drugs for Certain Covered Entities Under the 340B Program Federal Register
Jul 23, 2014 - The Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, is announcing the availability of an interpretive rule providing HHS's interpretation of section 340B(e) of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), entitled “Implementation of the Exclusion of Orphan Drugs for Certain Covered Entities Under the 340B Program.”
Source: Federal Register
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Critical Access Hospitals Struggle With EHR Implementations
Jul 23, 2014 - Despite major national investments to support the adoption of health information technology, critical access hospitals continue to confront barriers that inhibit that adoption and the use of advanced health IT capabilities in rural areas in particular.
Source: Health IT Outcomes
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Guest Commentary: Telemedicine a Necessary Investment for Rural Hospitals
Jul 22, 2014 - This guest commentary by Bryan Coffey, CEO of a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in rural Kansas, presents how necessary the investment in telemedicine is for rural hospitals. He discusses increased volume, higher quality, as well as greater access for rural resident of Hamilton County. (May require free registration for full article)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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HHS/HRSA Issue 'Interpretive Rule' on 340B Orphan Drug Discounts
Jul 21, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services and its Health Resources and Services Administration issued an interpretive rule that continues to allow hospitals subject to the orphan drug exclusion to purchase “orphan drugs” through the 340B Drug Pricing Program when the drugs are not used to treat the rare conditions for which the orphan drug designation was given.
Source: American Hospital Association
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In Rural Regions, More Physicians Just What the Doctor Ordered
Jul 21, 2014 - The article describes both the current need for physicians in rural communities throughout the country and the anticipated growth in demand due to more people having access to healthcare and an aging elderly population. It not only discusses the growing need, but it also describes the difficulty in recruiting new physicians to a rural community.
Source: U.S. News University Connection
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CMS Launches Next Phase of New Quality Improvement Program
Jul 18, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announces fourteen Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs) that will work with providers and communities on data-driven quality initiatives. As a result of the changes, some hospitals and providers will now work with a different QIO than in the past.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Reaching Remaining Uninsured Will Be Difficult and Expensive, Experts Predict
Jul 18, 2014 - After seeing the uninsured rate drop from 22% to 11% in the first ACA open enrollment period, California healthcare advocates plan to focus health insurance outreach efforts on minorities, rural communities, and young people, in an attempt to reach those still uninsured.
Source: California Healthline
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Insurers in US Territories Get ACA Exemptions
Jul 18, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services issued a letter stating that insurance companies in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are no longer required to implement certain ACA measures.
Source: The Hill
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Minimally Invasive Surgery Use Varies Widely
Jul 17, 2014 - A study published in BMJ looked at Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality data for four common surgical procedures, finding that rural hospitals were less likely to use a minimally invasive approach for three out of the four procedures. (May require free registration for full article)
Source: Medscape
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Mcauliffe to Visit Free Field Hospital in Wise County in Bid to Expand Medicaid in Va.
Jul 17, 2014 - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is visiting a free medical clinic in southwest Virginia this week where more than 1,000 people seek free medical care from volunteer healthcare providers. For many, this is the only type of medical care they can get and it highlights the need for expanded Medicaid coverage in the state.
Source: The Washington Post
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Oregon Won't Smile on Dental Therapists
Jul 17, 2014 - While states like Alaska and Minnesota are moving ahead successfully with the training and use of dental therapists as way to increase access to dental care, the Oregon Legislature is struggling to find a non-profit group or University that will take the lead in a pilot project with funding to test the idea.
Source: Portland Tribune (OR)
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Sen. Walsh Addresses Domestic Violence in Tribal Communities
Jul 17, 2014 - Senator John Walsh (D-MT) recently met with Blackfeet and Confederated Salish and Kootenai (CSKT) tribal council members, Violence Against Women Act advocates and law enforcement officials to discuss the issue of domestic violence, the Violence Against Women Act, and ways to prevent violence on reservations in the state.
Source: Char-Koosta News (MT)
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Telemedicine Guidelines Leave Plenty Of Questions
Jul 17, 2014 - The Federation of State Medical Boards and the American Medical Association recently issued separate guidelines to assist states in regulating telemedicine practices. While neither set of guidelines is binding, states may look to them as they make adjustments to their own regulations governing telemedicine. Of concern to rural areas is the idea that both providers and patients must have a robust Internet connection.
Source: InformationWeek
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Medicare Increases Telehealth Coverage...a Bit
Jul 16, 2014 - CMS proposed in a recent rule to increase the telehealth services that Medicare will cover, including wellness visits and some behavioral health services. It also broadened geographic coverage of services to include rural census tracts that fall inside metropolitan statistical areas. While this is a step in the right direction, some believe that more could be done to ensure that patients everywhere have access to quality healthcare.
Source: Medscape
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Acting Secretary Gibson Outlines Problems, Actions Taken, and Budget Resources Needed to Ensure Access to Care
Jul 16, 2014 - Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs outlining the problems Veterans have had in accessing timely healthcare and actions the VA is taking to correct them.
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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Health Care Camp Aims to Inspire next Generation of Rural Providers
Jul 16, 2014 - Highlights the MedStart Camp, funded by the Montana Area Health Education Center, whose aim is get high school juniors and seniors excited about a career in healthcare.
Source: Billings Gazette (MT)
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Missouri Governor Signs 'Assistant Physician' Legislation
Jul 16, 2014 - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently signed a controversial new law creating a new classification of healthcare provider, an assistant physician, that will help ease primary care physician shortages in rural and underserved areas of the state. Here is a selection of reactions from the field.
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Rural Hospital Emergency Room Closing
Jul 16, 2014 - Due to increasing costs, Trace Regional Hospital in rural Mississippi will no longer have overnight emergency room hours beginning in September. Instead, they will open a health clinic with shortened hours to serve the emergency care needs of local residents.
Source: The Clarion-Ledger (MS)
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Minnesota’s Nation-leading Medicaid Reform Initiative Delivers $10.5 Million in Savings During First Year
Jul 15, 2014 - Minnesota’s new approach to delivering quality health care more efficiently for Medicaid patients is paying off.  Through the Integrated Health Partnerships (IHP), participating providers receive financial incentives for reducing the total cost of care for Medicaid enrollees while maintaining or improving the quality of care patients receive.
Source: Minnesota Office of Governor Mark Dayton
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GOP Mayor Marches to D.C. In Support of Medicaid
Jul 14, 2014 - A mayor in small town North Carolina is walking from his hometown to Washington D.C. hoping to bring attention to the issue of rural hospital closures and Medicaid expansion.
Source: MSNBC
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Accelerating States' Efforts on Medicaid Delivery System Reform
Jul 14, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is launching a new initiative through the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program to help states accelerate the development and testing of new state-led Medicaid payment and service delivery system reforms.
Source: CMS Blog
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Veterans' Needs 'Should Drive Where They Get Their Care'
Jul 14, 2014 - The U.S. House and Senate have passed bills that would allow veterans to seek medical care outside of the VA system if they meet certain conditions, including living more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Kaiser Health News interviews Dr. Kenneth Kizer, a former VA undersecretary for health, about the issue of the VA contracting with outside providers for medical care.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Oncologists: Future of Rural Cancer Care Seen as 'Dire'
Jul 14, 2014 - According to a report issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, rural Americans could have less access to quality cancer care, due to a projected shortage of oncologists, especially in small- and mid-sized practices, in the next 10-15 years.
Source: High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
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The Scientific World Journal: Innovative Technology in Rehabilitation Call for Papers
Jul 14, 2014 - The Scientific World Journal is inviting researchers to submit articles that will produce innovative evaluation methods, expand the knowledge base of viable technologies, discuss encryption and data security involving telerehabilitation, and provide cost metrics data. Potential topics may include testing of novel technologies to improve the access and quality of rehabilitative care; the use of televideo, telemonitoring, and distance technology, or the use of healthcare delivery models involving telehealth that serve rural and/or urban populations.
Source: Scientific World Journal
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Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems and Quality Reporting Programs; Physician-Owned Hospitals: Data Sources for Expansion Exception; Physician Certification of Inpatient Hospital Services; Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D Sponsors: Appeals Process for Overpayments Associated With Submitted Data; Proposed Rule Federal Register
Jul 14, 2014 - CMS proposed rule to revise the Medicare hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) and the Medicare ambulatory surgical center (ASC) payment system for CY 2015. Also would update the requirements for the Hospital Outpatient Quality Reporting (OQR) and the ASC Quality Reporting (ASCQR) programs.
Source: Federal Register
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Pharmacy System Supports Muscogee Creek Nation's Native Speakers
Jul 14, 2014 - An automated interactive voice response (IVR) system added to pharmacy software system has improved the efficiency of the Muscogee Creek Nation’s automated prescription refill process and is helping to preserve the language of the tribal community.
Source: GCN
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Speak Your Piece: A Rural Hospital Crisis
Jul 14, 2014 - Daily Yonder opinion piece outlines the crises facing rural hospitals across the country, one of them being lower inpatient numbers.
Source: Daily Yonder
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Kentucky Law Gives Nurse Practitioners More Flexibility
Jul 14, 2014 - A new law in Kentucky will allow experienced nurse practitioners to prescribe routine medications without a doctor's involvement, increasing access for patients who may not be able to travel from rural areas to see a physician.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Request for Information: Fostering Innovation in Research on Reducing Disparities in Mental Health Services in the U.S.
Jul 14, 2014 - The National Institute of Mental Health is looking for ideas that will inform new research strategies related to access, availability, quality, coordination, financing and other aspects of mental health services that will reduce mental health disparities in the U.S.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health
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Ohio's Rural Hospitals Face Serious Financial Woes
Jul 13, 2014 - Hospitals in non-metro counties of Ohio are struggling to stay open amid the high cost of care and decreased federal reimbursement.
Source: Associated Press via The News-Herald (OH)
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VA Grants Will Expand Transportation in Highly Rural Areas
Jul 11, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the White House Rural Council have announced the award of eight grants which will improve access to health care for Veterans living in highly rural areas.
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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CMS: Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule, Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule, Access to Identifiable Data for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Models & Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2015 Federal Register
Jul 11, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is seeking comments on a major proposed rule that addresses changes to the physician fee schedule, and other Medicare Part B payment policies to ensure that payment systems are updated to reflect changes in medical practice and the relative value of services, as well as changes in the statute.

Source: Federal Register
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Critical Access Hospitals Still Facing EHR Adoption Challenges
Jul 11, 2014 - The high costs of EHR implementation, a chronic lack of adequate staffing, and a lack of access to quality high-speed broadband internet are still presenting significant barriers to critical access hospitals (CAHs) throughout the nation, according to a new Health Affairs study authored by members of the Office of the National Coordinator. The article describes that broadband access remains a significant barrier in many rural areas, and hospitals are not exempt from the issues raised by unreliable internet.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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HRSA: Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission to OMB for Review and Approval; Public Comment Request Federal Register
Jul 10, 2014 - The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) of the Bureau of Health Workforce, HRSA, is seeking comment on an information collection concerning NHSC approval of site certification applicants. The information obtained from the NHSC Site Application and Site Recertification Application will be utilized to determine the eligibility of sites to participate in the NHSC as an approved service site.
Source: Federal Register
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Critical Access Hospitals Report Challenges, Yet Forge Ahead with Advanced Health IT Capabilities
Jul 8, 2014 - Despite their size and financial challenges, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) are making a big impact in the field of Health IT. This Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology article describes CAHs' faster-than-average uptake and adoption of the technology, increasing reach, access, and quality of healthcare for rural America.
Source: Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
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HHS Announces the Availability of $100 Million in Affordable Care Act Funding to Expand Access to Primary Care Through New Community Health Centers
Jul 8, 2014 - HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the availability of $100 million from the Affordable Care Act to support an estimated 150 new health center sites across the country in 2015.
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
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Lawmakers Consider Ways to Improve Rural Health Care
Jul 8, 2014 - This brief news article draws attention to some national lawmakers who recognize a need to improve the healthcare system in rural America. Training more medical professionals to address the anticipated physician shortage and thinking outside the box for new solutions are both discussed.
Source: RFD-TV
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Rural Kansas Hospital Focuses on 'Mission-Driven' Medicine to Recruit Doctors
Jul 7, 2014 - Rural Kearny County Hospital located Lankin, Kansas, has a distinctive approach to recruiting doctors to work and stay in rural Kansas. This article by Kansas Health Institute investigates this approach aimed at addressing the physician gap.
Source: Kansas Health Institute
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Rural Residents with Disabilities Less Likely to Get Colon Cancer Screening
Jul 7, 2014 - Discusses results from a new report which concludes that people with disabilities are less likely to get screened for colon and rectal cancer if they live in rural areas. That means rural residents with disabilities may be at higher risk of getting diagnosed with late-stage cancer than their urban counterparts.
Source: Reuters
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Proposed CMS Rule Expands Telehealth Payments, Domain
Jul 7, 2014 - Wellness and behavioral health visits are among a few telehealth coverage expansions the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services want to add to the list of Medicare-reimbursable telehealth activities under a proposal released Thursday. (Free registration may be required to read full article)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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CMS Releases CY 2015 OPPS, ASC Proposed Rule
Jul 7, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule for calendar year 2015 for the hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgical center prospective payment systems.
Source: American Hospital Association
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CMS Releases Proposed Physician Payment Rule
Jul 7, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued its proposed rule for the physician fee schedule for calendar year 2015.
Source: American Hospital Association
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CMS: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; CY 2015 Home Health Prospective Payment System Rate Update; Home Health Quality Reporting Requirements; and Survey and Enforcement Requirements for Home Health Agencies Federal Register
Jul 7, 2014 - This proposed rule would update the Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) rates, including the national, standardized 60-day episode payment rates, the national per-visit rates, and the non-routine medical supply (NRS) conversion factor under the Medicare prospective payment system for home health agencies (HHAs), effective January 1, 2015.
Source: Federal Register
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New Resources on Finding Rural-Relevant Statistics and Data
Jul 7, 2014 - A set of three new resources is now available from the Rural Assistance Center to help you locate and use statistics and data related to rural health.
Source: Rural Assistance Center
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High-Deductible Plans More Common
Jul 7, 2014 - According to a new study from the University of Southern Maine, rural residents are more likely to purchase high-deductible health insurance plans, which could discourage them from getting medical care and compromise the care that some residents receive.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Telemedicine Gains Ground in Treatment of Injured Workers
Jul 7, 2014 - This Modern Healthcare article discusses how telemedicine is gaining ground in treating injured workers, especially in rural areas, to speed their evaluation and possibly reduce the costs paid by employers. (Free registration may be require to read full article)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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Rural Poverty Highlighted In New Report
Jul 3, 2014 - Poverty is prevalent in rural areas across the U.S. That’s according to a published report from the New York Times, which says it’s not just an urban issue. The Northern Public Radio article highlights the meaning of the report for rural American's and the severity of the reality.
Source: Northern Public Radio
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CMS Proposed Rule Could Cut Supply of Rural Physicians
Jul 2, 2014 - The AAFP and the four organizations that make up the Council of Academic Family Medicine recently responded to a proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that, if finalized as is, could infringe on the U.S. graduate medical education (GME) system and compromise health care for underserved rural Americans.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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National Report: Midlevel Dental Providers Expand Access to Care
Jul 2, 2014 - A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that midlevel dental providers such as dental therapists can expand access to care in underserved communities while more than paying for themselves with the revenue they generate. Midlevel dental providers help expand the reach of the dental care team and increase access to dental care especially for low-income adults and children, people of color, and people living in rural areas.
Source: Kansas Health Institute
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CMS Proposals to Update Policies and Payment Rates for End-stage Renal Disease Providers for CY 2015 and Proposals for Implementation of Competitive Bidding-based Prices for Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies
Jul 2, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued a proposed rule that would update payment policies and rates under the End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Prospective Payment System (PPS) for renal dialysis services furnished to beneficiaries on or after January 1, 2015. This proposal would introduce new quality and performance measures to improve the quality of care by outpatient dialysis facilities treating patients with end-stage renal disease and proposes to implement the Affordable Care Act mandate to bring more competitive bidding for durable medical equipment.
Source: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Rural Physician Bus Tour Brings Health IT Resources to Central and East Georgia
Jul 2, 2014 - Home Town Health, of Atlanta, Georgia, has organized a 'Rural Physician Bus Tour' that brings a team of technical health IT people out to physicians and communities located in rural Georgia to provide physicians technical assistance with the Meaningful Use attestation process required to receive their Medicaid Incentive funds.
Source: Digital Journal
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Reform Update: States Test Medicaid ACOs to Cut Costs
Jul 1, 2014 - Looking to control Medicaid costs, several states are launching accountable care initiatives that mirror experiments underway with Medicare and private insurers but vary significantly in their approaches. The article also argues that rural areas are disproportionately affected, driving home the importance of these ACOs in rural America. (May require registration for full article)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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HHS Grants Bolster Health Care and Public Health Disaster Preparedness
Jul 1, 2014 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $840 million to continue improving emergency preparedness of state and local public health and health care systems. This news release gives an geographic overview of FY 2013 funding that was distributed and an explanation of the grants' importance.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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CMS Releases Home Health Proposed Rule
Jul 1, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the proposed rule for the home health prospective payment system for calendar year 2015, which updates Medicare payment rates to home health agencies and implements the second year of the four-year phase in of the rebasing of this payment system.
Source: American Hospital Association
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American College of Surgeons and Iowa Health Care Leaders Unite to Focus on Improving the Quality of Surgical Care in Rural Communities
Jun 30, 2014 - On Friday, June 27, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) hosted the ACS Surgical Health Care Quality Forum Iowa, featuring a panel of health care leaders who shared insights into the unique health care issues that rural areas face today, including workforce shortages, quality education and training for the next generation of rural surgeons, and access to trauma care.
Source: American College of Surgeons
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ND Blazes Medicaid Expansion Trail
Jun 30, 2014 - North Dakota has developed an an approach to its Medicaid expansion by inviting commercial insurance carriers to bid for the opportunity to provide health coverage for the newly eligible adults in the state. This article explains this new model and offers some reasoning behind the approach.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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Washington Highlights Physician Shortage Legislation Introduced as Conferees Meet on VA Backlog Bill
Jun 27, 2014 - Representatives Ami Bera, M.D., (D-Calif.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced the Doctors Helping Heroes Act (H.R. 4951) on June 24 to “help shorten wait times at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the country by dealing with the serious shortage of doctors that they’re facing." H.R. 4951 expands the Conrad State 30 J-1 visa waiver program by providing an additional five waivers for states in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines VA facilities lack the ability to provide timely access to care or the necessary trained personnel.
Source: Association of American Medical Colleges
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Dental Care Too Late or Elusive for Many Native Adults and Elders
Jun 26, 2014 - Although strides are being made to address tribal community dental care, especially for children, many native American adults are lacking needed dental services. The article discusses how dental access is often only available at tribal clinics, which can be located many miles away. It specifically mentions that areas where they don't have geographic access to dental care have not seen improvements over the years.
Source: The Tundra Drums
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Getting Rural Patients Psychiatric Help Fast
Jun 26, 2014 - The PEW Charitable Trusts news article takes a deep look into how telepsyciatry addresses a mental health gap in South Carolina. In addition to the specifics of South Carolina efforts, the article articulates how psychiatrists are able to use videoconferencing equipment to assess patients as well as provides an insight into the medical professional shortage throughout the country.
Source: The PEW Charitable Trusts
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MedPAC Proposes New Medicare Payment for Primary Care
Jun 25, 2014 - The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which advises Congress on Medicare issues, outlined several proposals in its June report to Congress that reward physicians for keeping patients healthy rather than simply for treating them when they are sick. The American Academy of Family Physicians article outlines some of the implications of the recommended changes.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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HRSA: Lists of Designated Primary Medical Care, Mental Health, and Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas Federal Register
Jun 25, 2014 - This notice advises the public of the published lists of all geographic areas, population groups, and facilities designated as primary medical care, mental health, and dental health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) as of May 23, 2014. Through use of a Shortage Area Location tool, users can quickly determine if their geographic area is a designated shortage area.
Source: Federal Register
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W.Va. Rural Health Group Expands Healthcare Data Portal
Jun 25, 2014 - The WV Gazette article describes an initiative by the West Virginia Rural Health Association (WVRHA) to meet workforce demand: a Health Portal. The Health Portal is a database of medical resources which helps users find and locate medical specialties, number of providers in an area, as well as the driving distance to a clinic, medical office, or hospital.
Source: The WV Gazette
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VA Reduces Admissions by 35% Due to Telemedicine Services
Jun 23, 2014 - The Department of Veteran Affairs has long been a leader in the telemedicine arena, and a new study published by Adam Darkins, Chief Consultant for Telehealth Services, highlights some very positive results from the suite of programs and pilots. According to EHR Intelligence, forty-five percent of those patients who used the VA's telemedicine services in 2013 lived in rural areas with limited access to physical facilities, and may not have received adequate care without clinical video services, mHealth, and home health services to support self-management for depression, PTSD, and other chronic conditions.
Source: EHR Intelligence
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Rural Healthcare Leaders: Medical Education 'Out of Kilter'
Jun 23, 2014 - At an event, hosted by the Colorado Commission on Family Medicine in the District of Columbia, a panel discussed the primary care physician (PCP) shortage, its relationship with graduate medical education (GME) and the challenges of recruiting rural PCPs, according to Fierce Healthcare.
Source: Fierce Healthcare
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Medical School Graduates Could Go Directly to Patient Care in Missouri Under Proposal
Jun 23, 2014 - It could get easier to be a doctor in Missouri under a proposed law to add the classification of “assistant physician” to the state medical license. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article discusses pros, cons and implications for rural Missouri.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Moran Urges Obama to Improve Health Care for Rural Veterans
Jun 23, 2014 - U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, a member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently urged President Barack Obama to consider veterans in rural areas as the Administration works to strengthen and accelerate access to health care for veterans, according to the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.
Source: High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
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Funding for this project was supported by Grant Number U56RH05539 from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.