FRANKLIN, Tenn., Mar 31, 2014 -- FRANKLIN, Tenn., March 31, 2014 – Hospitals, clinics, doctors and other professionals have to overcome a lot of additional challenges to provide quality healthcare services in rural areas. Access to care closer to home can have a big economic impact on a family’s pocketbook and on the decision of a business looking to create new jobs a rural community.
Last week in Franklin, USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode told members of the Tennessee Rural Health Collaborative that federal and state agencies can help.
The day-long workshop was convened by staff from USDA, Health and Human Services (HHS), Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and the State Office of Rural Health, the Healthcare Information Technology Regional Extension Center (tnREC) and University of Tennessee Extension Service. The program was held in conjunction with the Tennessee Hospital Association annual meeting.
“We want doctors and hospitals serving rural communities across Tennessee to be able to afford the technology upgrades they need to improve care for patients and rural veterans in their communities,” says Jennifer Ride of TnREC. According to officials, the workshop is the latest round in a White House Rural Council initiative to link rural doctors, clinics and hospitals in Tennessee with financing they need to adopt advances made possible by improved healthcare technology, like electronic health records.
The joint initiative helps fund mobile health, telehealth and electronic health record technology for rural providers and hospitals. Participants in the workshop included healthcare professionals from Bledsoe, Clay, Coffee, Decatur, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Houston, Marshall, Monroe, Rhea, Scott, Trousdale and White counties. Other organizations that participated were Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, Tennessee Primary Care Association, and Cumberland Area Investment Corp.
In 2011, the White House began a series of activities to streamline and improve the effectiveness of federal programs serving families and businesses in rural America. One focus of the initiative has been to expand funding for Health IT so rural doctors, clinics and hospitals can take advantage of healthcare advances already readily available in most urban areas.
“In today’s interconnected world, the kind of healthcare available doesn’t have to be limited by where someone lives or works,” said Goode. “Our goal is to make sure every American has access to the best possible care wherever they choose to live or raise a family.”
Leaders from 25 of Tennessee’s critical access and rural hospitals, mental health clinics and primary care practices took part in the workshop. Together with officials from federal, state and non-profit partners they identified their most pressing funding needs and received face-to-face assistance on their specific individual funding needs.
Resources available from all of the funding partners and recent successes were highlighted by presentations from local leaders who have already benefited from the initiative including Houston County Health Center and Three Rivers Hospital. “All of us here today are committed to finding innovative ways to better use existing resources, both public and private, to help Tennessee’s rural health care providers improve care for everyone in the communities we serve,” said Goode.
“This kind of partnership is part of what we call the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity and is part of USDA’s continuing commitment to grow rural economies, increase investments and create opportunities communities that are often held back by high poverty and other barriers,” said Goode.
While poverty is a challenge in bigger cities as well, the reality is that nearly 85 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural areas. StrikeForce provides additional focus for these resources in the form of hands-on technical assistance from USDA local field staff.
“Here at USDA, for example, we have nearly a dozen programs that provide loans, loan guarantees and grants to help create jobs and spur investments in rural communities. But, not every community is equipped to research, apply for or manage federal, state or non-profit resources that could help.”
During the last four years USDA Rural Development has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants for jobs, homes, infrastructure and community development.
More information is available online at healthit.gov/. For information on USDA funding sources available in Tennessee contact the USDA Rural Development Area Office serving your county.
Attendees represented Adams and Reese LLP, Casey Counseling Center, CES Consulting, Copper Basin Medical Center, Decatur County General Hospital, Employee Talk LLC, Erlanger Bledsoe, Franklin Healthcare Management, Frontier Health, Hardin Medical Center, Highlands Medical Center, Medical Center of Manchester, Perry County Community Hospital, Professional care Services, Restoration Healthcare, Rhea Medical Center, Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital, Three Rivers Hospital, TriStar Health, Trousdale Medical center, Upper Middle Tennessee Rural Health Network, Volunteer Behavioral Healthcare System and West Tennessee Healthcare.
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