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Sebelius Hears Rural Health Concerns

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2011

In addition to the financial issues, there are other issues that rural communities are faced with [such as] the availability of physicians. As the country is faced with a physician shortage, both now and into the future, it makes recruitment of physicians into rural areas more difficult. And we talked to the Secretary about incentives or initiatives or current programs that might be able to help rural communities.

In addition, we talked about barriers for midlevel health practitioners—nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse anesthetists—to make sure that there were no barriers for their practice, and that their scope of practice in any given state, was fully recognized by the federal government.

HLM: What were participants' major concerns related to health IT?

Scanlan: There were several. One was just the ability of a small community and a small hospital to be able to have both the human and financial resources to put in place a sophisticated information technology [system]. Secondly, the ability to communicate with other providers or hospitals, such as use of telemedicine, and having the kind of infrastructure—broadband or otherwise—that allows that kind of communication to take place.

HLM: Did anything surprise you during the roundtable?

Scanlan: There weren't surprises. There was more a good sense of what the Secretary's priorities are: quality issues and access to care. The conversations around clinical staff availability, telemedicine, [and] ambulatory care all really centered around access and making sure that people had care available to them and [that] the care that is available to them [is] delivered in a quality fashion.

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2 comments on "Sebelius Hears Rural Health Concerns"


Robert C. Bowman, M.D. (10/28/2011 at 4:32 AM)
Rural areas are indeed dependent upon school and health spending. Federal designs bypass rural spending in both. The Secretary cannot possibly defend 6 billion in Critical Access Hospital cuts - a move that can only be seen as lack of awareness of what is critical to rural health as in the 1980s Reagan PPS changes. The Secretary cannot address primary care reimbursement that fails to keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of delivering primary care - going up even faster in recent years. Primary care is 40 - 100% of rural workforce. Thirty years of administrations have failed to implement solutions that have worked for over 30 years in Pennsylvania such as the Jefferson PSAP or MN RPAP or other models that graduate what rural areas need - broad scope generalist family practice - the only remaining permanent primary care source in the United States.

jrobb (10/19/2011 at 3:24 PM)
As one of the largest employers in many rural communities, Hospitals are a key economic driver that allows rural America to survice. Without the career paths the hospital provides, youth leaves, property values decline, and the tax base erodes. Hopefully, "small-town" America will not become collateral damage of the PPAC Act.