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HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America

Posted by Bill Menner, Iowa State Director, USDA Rural DevelopmentLeila Samy, Rural Health IT Coordinator, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, US Department of Health and Human Services in Rural
May 18, 2017

It has been five years since the President announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed an agreement to streamline how our programs work together to support rural health and to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.

In those five years, rural communities and rural health care providers in every state and territory have accessed USDA financing and HHS technical assistance to help improve local access to care and, and to support an interoperable health system.

For example, USDA Rural Development has financed projects to:

  • Build rural hospitals and expand rural health clinics
  • Rehabilitate infrastructure (e.g., servers, routers, computer docking stations) for wired and wireless health IT solutions in Critical Access Hospitals.
  • Purchase, install and adopt equipment and software necessary to ensure interoperable exchange of health information and support advanced health IT capabilities.
  • Offer telehealth specialty care in retirement communities and skilled nursing facilities,
  • Help health care organizations serving Indian and Tribal Reservations transition from paper to electronic health records
  • Enable rural hospitals to add beds for mental and behavioral health care and
  • Improve senior living conditions

 $2.5 Billion invested in rural health across 20 states

We in HHS and USDA worked together with Government and non-Government partners at the local, state and National level in 20 states to convene collaborative workshops focused on linking health care providers with financing, technical assistance, and broadband connectivity they need to adopt health IT, engage in interoperable exchange of health information and adopt or expand the telehealth services they provide their communities.

USDA invested over $2.5 Billion in low interest loans, loan guarantees and grants for rural health across these 20 participating states between FY 2012 and FY 2016: Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

Appalachian Regional Commission invested at least $13.1 Million across 8 states

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was among our key partners in this initiative. In fact, ARC invested at least $13.1 Million in rural health projects in 8 participating states between FY 2012 and 2016. These states’ ARC supported projects totaled $31.6 Million , including $13.1 from ARC with matching funds from local, state and other Federal partners.

Category/Topic: Rural

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Vassilios A. Margaris
Nov 19, 2016

I will also recommend offering of various incentives (monetary and others-Federal or State) to medical professionals to work in the Rural Communities