- A newly-announced CMS Rural Health Strategy leverages the Meaningful Measures initiative to reduce administrative burden and avoid the unintended consequences of federal policy on rural providers.
The Rural Health Strategy also aims to improve patient access to high quality, affordable care for rural patients.
“For the first time, CMS is organizing and focusing our efforts to apply a rural lens to the vision and work of the agency,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The Rural Health Strategy supports CMS’ goal of putting patients first. Through its implementation and our continued stakeholder engagement, this strategy will enhance the positive impacts CMS policies have on beneficiaries who live in rural areas.”
CMS developed the plan based on input from rural providers and beneficiaries. The strategy centers on the following five priorities:
- 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 strategy will help to improve care quality in rural communities in which poverty rates, chronic conditions, and fragmented healthcare delivery are disproportionately common as compared to other areas.
CMS will also work to implement a new approach to quality measurement that reduces administrative burden on rural providers through the Meaningful Measures initiative. Specifically, CMS will review and revise existing quality measures across CMS programs to ensure measure sets are aligned, outcomes-based, and valuable for rural providers and patients.
Additionally, CMS plans to align quality measurement activities with National Quality Form (NQF) initiatives centered on promoting rural health and telemedicine.
“This Administration clearly understands that one of the keys to ensuring that those who call rural America home are able to achieve their highest level of health is to advance policies and programs that address their unique healthcare needs,” said Verma.
In addition to improving quality measures to better suit rural providers, CMS also plans to leverage its partnership with ONC to promote interoperability between rural healthcare facilities.
CMS will work with ONC to increase EHR use and health data exchange among rural providers for quality improvement.
The federal agency will continue to collaborate with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to implement the plan.
“HRSA is excited to see CMS spell out a strategy to better serve rural populations that was informed by rural stakeholders who have a unique lens on the issues in their communities,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D.
“This builds on our long-standing collaboration with CMS and will highlight key issues for rural safety net providers like rural hospitals and community health centers for CMS and HHS,” he concluded.