Providing high-quality, coordinated health care in rural communities presents many challenges for providers, payers and patients and their families. For instance, only 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas, and 65 percent of all designated health professional shortage areas are located in these communities. Building upon efforts to improve access to routine and emergency care through federal programs such as critical access hospitals, new telehealth and educational strategies present unique opportunities to further transform specialty and primary care in rural areas.
On December 8, the Merkin Initiative for Payment Reform and Clinical Leadership hosted a MEDTalk event that brings together experts from Arkansas’ ANGELS program and Project ECHO. Both organizations discussed their different approaches to rural health through technologies that help facilitate appropriate access to specialty care and decision support for primary care. The event featured moderated discussions by Mark McClellan, Kavita Patel and featured experts from health plans and provider groups to identify sustainable improvement strategies and financial mechanisms to encourage innovation in rural health.