Tag Archives: rural health

A growing demand for telehealth services in rural U.S.

The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum)

Americans living in rural areas are less likely to use telehealth services than urban residents. The reasons are not unique to them: they may have concerns about giving private information over the internet or don’t know how to find their way around technology. But slow internet speed and reliability problems appear to most affect access to telehealth services in those communities.

That suggests that people in those parts of the United States may not be getting access to quality health care in part because “if you are getting spotty access, you’re not going to have a real consult,” Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, J.D, a vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families. Hernández-Cancio said the demand for those telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic underscored the need to upgrade older telecommunications infrastructure in less dense areas of the United States and exposed technological shortcomings in telehealth and user barriers to it.

The state of internet services infrastructure was among the equity measures that health care experts discussed in “The truth about telemedicine: promise and limitations,” a panel at Rural Health Workshop 2022 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The daylong event held on July 14, 2022, included sessions about finding trend data on rural areas and efforts to recruit people to the nursing profession to serve less populated areas of the country.


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How to use health equity data to cover access to COVID‑19 rapid tests

Victoria Knight

When the Biden Administration rolled out two COVID-19 rapid tests programs in mid-January, Kaiser Health News reporters Victoria Knight and Hannah Recht were separately researching the initiatives, including one that allowed Americans to get free tests through the U.S. Postal Service. Their reporting included interviewing experts and gathering U.S. Census Bureau data about health equity measures such as home-based internet subscription rates. 

The behind-the-scenes reporting illustrates how some stories are rooted in social media serendipity and collaboration. In this “How I Did It,” Knight and Recht explain how the article came together and why the data they compiled suggested that millions of Americans — mainly Black, Hispanic and Native American, and Alaska Native people — could face significant challenges in getting the rapid tests. (The following conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.)

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Hospitals, HHS each scored a win and a loss in recent Supreme Court cases

Photo by Geoff Livingston via Flickr.

Amid issuing some of the most significant rulings this century, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) also decided on two cases where certain hospitals challenged federal decisions that cost them money. 

Hospitals scored one win and one loss in these cases. Both cases involved Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) policies created under Republican presidents that the Biden administration sought to defend. 

In Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Becerra v. Empire Health Foundation, the Supreme Court split 5-4 in a June 24 decision about a calculation used to decide which hospitals qualify for extra pay for serving many people with low incomes. The Supreme Court found in favor of HHS in this case, disappointing hospital groups.

On June 15 in the American Hospital Association (AHA) v. Becerra case, the Court said in a unanimous decision that HHS erred in the administrative procedures in cutting reimbursement on certain drugs. In this case, the Biden administration had defended a Trump administration bid to compel hospitals to share certain savings they get on medicines with Medicare and people enrolled in the program.

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How Liora Engel-Smith covered efforts to address the resident shortage in Western N.C.

Liora Engel-Smith

Liora Engel-Smith

Rural health care facilities must employ enough professionals to meet the needs of their communities. But maintaining the health care workforce is a problem that goes back a long way. Their professionals need adequate education and training, cultural competency skills, and hold appropriate licensure or certification.

Medical residents who train in cities tend to stay in cities. Some rural providers say that closing the rural-urban physician gap is a matter of luring some residents away from these population centers.

In “Tackling NC’s rural provider shortage, one residency slot at a time,” Liora Engel-Smith looks at the way Mountain Area Health and Education Center (MAHEC) in Western North Carolina recruits and trains rural family medicine residents to provide full-scope primary care services. It might be a model for other rural communities. Continue reading

Agriculture secretary will headline Rural Health Journalism Workshop 

Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be a featured speaker for AHCJ’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop June 21-23. Journalists attending the virtual event can submit questions during the live session or can click here to send in a question beforehand.

As head of the Department of Agriculture, Vilsack leads efforts to improve food and nutrition security, a constant concern in rural areas.

In a recent White House press conference, he linked food and nutrition security to a quarter of the country’s workforce impacted by the food and agriculture industry, educational achievement and poverty reduction. “And certainly,” he said, “we’ve seen the impact of that during the course of the pandemic.” Continue reading