On May 8th, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its first Rural Health Strategy which is meant to expand care to Americans who live in rural parts of the United States. CMS estimates 60 million Americans live in rural areas and are more likely to experience disproportionately high poverty rates, having more chronic conditions, being uninsured or underinsured, as well as experiencing a fragmented healthcare delivery system. This brand new strategy takes a hard look at rural providers and communities, where resources and health developments have been inconsistent in comparison to other regions across the country.
The agency-wide Rural Health Strategy focuses on five objectives to achieve the agency’s vision for rural health:
• Apply a rural lens to CMS programs and policies
• Improve access to care through provider engagement and support
• Advance telehealth and telemedicine
• Empower patients in rural communities to make decisions about their healthcare
• Leverage partnerships to achieve the goals of the CMS Rural Health Strategy
The program will be collaborative in nature since the Rural Health Council will partner with CMS to support the unique and evolving rural health market as well as begin to address the opioid epidemic among other problems that run beyond the issues mentioned in this strategy.
HIMSS continues to support CMS’s telehealth advancements to develop and test new models for the delivery of healthcare services in rural areas through improving access the delivery of healthcare, as noted in our letter to CMS in the fall of 2017. As a part of its rural health strategy, CMS will utilize their own innovation models to achieve better care and ensure smarter tactics. The ability to integrate these modernizations can bridge the gaps facing telehealth and telemedicine.