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CMS Debuts Strategy to Improve Rural Healthcare

By Jack O'Brien  
   May 08, 2018

In conjunction with federal, state, and local agencies, CMS is aiming to implement effective solutions for 60 million Americans. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled the Rural Health Strategy on Tuesday, a plan to take proactive steps to ensure rural communities receive quality and affordable access to healthcare.

The new policy aims to advance programs that help to meet the healthcare needs of nearly 60 million people living in rural areas across the country.

"Through its implementation and our continued stakeholder engagement, this strategy will enhance the positive impacts CMS policies have on beneficiaries who live in rural areas," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.

CMS will look to raise state and local stakeholder engagement to make the agency's policies more effective and curb the "unintended consequences of policy and program implementation" in those communities, the agency said. As part of implementing this strategy, the agency intends to continue its work with the Health Resources and Services Administration's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

According to the agency's fact sheet, CMS is focused on accomplishing five goals through the new strategy: advance telehealth services, apply a "rural lens" to agency policies, improve access to care, empower rural patients to make healthcare decisions, and leverage partnerships to achieve these objectives.

Below are specific actions CMS plans to take to advance its five goals:

  • Reduce barriers to implementing telehealth and telemedicine services. This addresses reimbursement, cross-state licensure issues as well as administrative and financial burdens surrounding set-up.

  • Institute a redesigned checklist with a rural lens to relevant policies, procedures and initiatives.

  • Promote evidence-based practices to improve access to rural service providers.

  • Provide technical assistance to ensure providers participate in CMS programs.

  • Address patient barriers like lack of transportation.

  • Work to develop and distribute materials to citizens through rural communications networks.

  • Bolster health technology and infrastructure to improve patient access to health information.

  • Partner with federal agencies like the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to promote interoperability and increased use of EHRs among patients and providers.

  • Increase focus on maternal health, behavioral health, and substance abuse through partnership with Center for Disease Control.

  • Assist state Medicaid agencies to advance rural health strategies to citizens in need.

Jack O'Brien is an associate editor at HealthLeaders. 


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