Plan steps up rural HIT
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has unveiled a new rural health strategy that includes supporting information technologies, improving interoperability of health information and increasing the use of telemedicine.
Initial goals of the strategy, announced by CMS Administrator Seema Verma, include applying a rural perspective to CMS programs and policies, improving access to care through provider engagement and support, advancing telehealth and telemedicine; empowering rural patients to make decisions about their care, and leveraging partnerships to reach strategic goals.
CMS further seeks to reduce provider burdens, improve quality of care and focus on the opioid epidemic that afflicts many rural residents. CMS views telemedicine as a technology to better meet the needs of underserved individuals, particularly specialist care, and to improve access and quality while reducing readmissions and unnecessary emergency department visits.
The agency acknowledges it needs to reduce barriers that have impeded use of telemedicine in rural America—it’s aiming to reduce such barriers as reimbursement, cross-state licensure issues, and administrative and financial burdens to implementing the technology.
CMS will work with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information technology and other federal officials to promote interoperability and increase the use of electronic health records in rural communities, as well as working with health insurers to increase rural health plan options.