First Rural Health Strategy From CMS Will Improve Healthcare for Millions of Americans

May 14, 2018 - 6 minutes read

MedTech app development

60 million Americans live in rural areas. Like their urban and suburban counterparts, these remote regions have millions of Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries. Unfortunately, the healthcare delivery system for these communities is in need of some serious improvement.

On May 8th, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their plans for a more proactive approach to fixing this longstanding problem. Dogtown Media is in full support of this legislation. You should be, too — it could give millions of Americans access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.

A Chronic Problem for a Big Community

With higher proportions of people experiencing chronic conditions, a greater possibility of being uninsured or underinsured, and increased chances of poverty, rural communities in America face a plethora of problems as it is. The fact that our healthcare system is extremely overworked and the workforce for this industry is shrinking only piles onto the existing problems.

Rural areas in the United States often lack access to numerous specialty services as well. Considering that one in five Americans live in rural areas, saying that this is a substantial problem is an understatement. To address this, the CMS released their first Rural Health Strategy recently.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma elaborates on the strategy’s goals: “For the first time, CMS is organizing and focusing our efforts to apply a rural lens to the vision and work of the agency. The Rural Health Strategy supports CMS’ goal of putting patients first. 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.”

A Cause Near and Dear to Our Hearts

Although we’re based in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, bringing better healthcare to American citizens in rural areas is an endeavor that Dogtown Media has been working on behind-the-scenes for quite some time.

During his recent trip to Washington, D.C. for AppCon 18, our CEO Marc Fischer discussed how to tackle this exact problem with numerous politicians. We also recently developed a MedTech app with Allina Health and the Minneapolis Heart Institute that allows the healthcare workforce to access emergency protocols for cardiovascular problems, even if they’re offline in rural areas.

The fact that 20 percent of America’s population faces this problem is unacceptable. That’s why this strategy is so necessary to implement. And that’s why we’re so excited by the potential behind it. Everyone should be given a fighting chance in the event of an illness. And it shouldn’t depend on where they live.

Giving Rural Areas Equal Footing

This Rural Health Strategy was based on input from both beneficiaries and healthcare providers in rural areas. When all is taken into account, the plan boils down to five objectives to make it a success.

First, the CMS wants to gain a clear perspective on the situation by applying a “rural lens” to its programs and policies, and what they currently can and can’t do for patients. Second, the CMS wants to work with providers to improve access to care and medical support.

In turn, this will help with the third objective of furthering the implementations of telehealth and telemedicine. Fourth, the CMS wants to leverage its many partnerships to increase this strategy’s chances of succeeding. Last but not least, all of these objectives combined will hopefully empower the citizens in these rural areas to make better, more informed decisions regarding their healthcare.

A Work in Progress

While it was only released a few days ago, work on implementing the strategy has already begun. So far, CMS is focusing on the telehealth aspect by investing in additional services and streamlining how providers bill Medicare.

Verma explains that the people of rural America come first in this plan: “This Administration clearly understands that one of the keys to ensuring that those who call rural America home are able to achieve their highest level of health is to advance policies and programs that address their unique healthcare needs.”

The agency is also in talks with many other agencies like the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to collaborate on improving the strategy’s chances for success. “HRSA is excited to see CMS spell out a strategy to better serve rural populations that was informed by rural stakeholders who have a unique lens on the issues in their communities,” says George Sigounas, HRSA Administrator. “This builds on our long-standing collaboration with CMS and will highlight key issues for rural safety net providers like rural hospitals and community health centers for CMS and HHS.”

We’d like to give a special thanks to ACT, the app association, for pushing this forward and giving it the attention it deserves. We’re extremely excited to see what this strategy leads to! For more information, check out the complete strategy here.

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