Rural Healthcare: Increasing Access to Physicians and Technology

October 6, 2011
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In August, the Obama Administration announced a new jobs initiative for rural America that includes investments focused on increasing access to capital, job training and health care services.

In August, the Obama Administration announced a new jobs initiative for rural America that includes investments focused on increasing access to capital, job training and health care services.  Healthcare leaders with an interest in increasing rural access to physicians and technology will want to watch as this initiative is rolled out.

  • Increasing Physician Recruitment at Critical Access Hospitals: HHS will issue guidance to expand eligibility for the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program so that Critical Access Hospitals (those with 25 beds or fewer) can use these loans to recruit new physicians. This program will help more than 1,300 CAHs across the country recruit needed staff.  The addition of one primary care physician in a rural community generates approximately $1.5 million in annual revenue and creates 23 jobs annually.  The average CAH creates 107 jobs and generates $4.8 million in payroll annually.
  • Expanding Health Information Technology (IT) in Rural America: USDA and HHS will sign an agreement linking rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware needed to implement health information technology (HIT). Under current conditions, rural health care providers face challenges in harnessing the benefits of HIT due to limited access to capital and workforce challenges.  Rural hospitals tend to have lower financial operating margins and limited capital to make the investments needed to purchase hardware, software and other equipment. 

I guess one of my first questions is whether this initiative will help facilitate access to specialist physicians via telemedicine.