Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pandemic Crisis Services Free Support Tool

In order to come together to offer free support for our communities, many organizations and providers have created a free tool to utilize while we are all impacted by COVID-19 together. This is a very user-friendly tool that helps direct people to emergency services, local providers and resources for coping skills to manage mental health symptoms. The COVID-19 Pandemic Support Resources is a place both for patients and for the helpers who might be struggling.

Final Recommendation: Primary Care Interventions for Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use in Children and Adolescents

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a final recommendation statement on primary care interventions for prevention and cessation of tobacco use in children and adolescents. The Task Force found that interventions can help prevent tobacco use in children and teens, but more research is needed on how to help youth quit. To view the recommendation, the evidence on which it is based, and a summary for clinicians, check here.

Pandemic Underscores Importance of Interoperability

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for healthcare systems to seamlessly relay clinical information to one another. Health IT plays an essential role in the collecting and reporting of COVID-19 data and facilitating effective strategies to combat COVID-19. Here in the commonwealth:

  • The Pennsylvania Patient and Provider Network (P3N) facilitates the exchange of clinical data among five P3N Certified Healthcare Information Organizations (HIOs).
  • Each of the P3N HIOs hosts clinical data repositories, Admission-Discharge-Transfer messages, continuity of care documents, lab reports, radiology reports, and other clinical documents contributed by their member organizations.
  • Providers connected to any P3N HIO can request clinical data about their patients from any of the P3N HIO clinical data repositories with information about that patient and can receive notices when their patients are admitted to hospitals or emergency departments throughout the state.

This access to information is critical for ensuring providers have the most complete information about the patients they care for in ordinary times and now even more so to coordinate patient care during this COVID-19 pandemic. Check these tools and resources for the health IT and clinical community related to COVID-19 and get more information on health information exchange in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Medicaid PI Program Is Available to Help

The PA Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program wants to remind health centers that funding through the Promoting Interoperability Program (previously known as the Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program) has three program years remaining — 2019, 2020 and 2021. The PI Program does not end until Dec. 31, 2021. As long as you have participated In the PA Medicaid PI Program in a prior year (providers are permitted to skip a year and participate in subsequent years), staff would be happy to assist you in determining if you qualify to meet Patient Volume and Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements for the two current open program years 2019 and 2020. Important dates to remember: the PY 2019 application deadline is May 31, 2020 and the PY 2020 application deadline is March 31, 2021. Please note you will be unable to begin a PY2020 application until your PY 2019 application has been finished. Questions, please reach out to

Keep Furloughed Employees Engaged

Retaining furloughed employees is critical to the future of your organization. Here are some ideas to help employers, human resource professionals and employees successfully stay engaged and navigate reentry to the workforce. Communication is key. Employers and HR could build dedicated support websites or webpages to keep furloughed employees informed. Another tip is exploring social media and using it to create open forums and discussions between employers and furloughed staff. Employers and HR professionals can also nominate an employee to function as an ambassador to offer additional support. Employers and HR professionals should continue to offer resources that focus on the health and wellbeing of all employees. Employers can also take advantage of this time to optimize your remote-work platforms. Retooling your remote platforms can enable furloughed employees to connect through mobile devices. A solid plan to reengage furloughed employees can offer stability during these uncertain times. This short synopsis was based on a article for tips to help furloughed employees reenter.

For Some Primary Care Practices, COVID-19 Fueling Innovation

While many primary care practices are struggling to keep their doors open during the pandemic, others are leveraging it as an opportunity to innovate. Commonwealth Fund researchers looked at three practices that have gotten creative in how they reach patients and deliver care. These providers have benefited from investments made prior to the pandemic in remote monitoring tools, telehealth and texting platforms to identify high-risk patients. Read, Primary Care as a Bulwark Against COVID-19: How Three Innovative Practices Are Responding.

Pennsylvania Releases Cross-Agency Telehealth Guidance

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration provided consolidated telehealth guidance for all state agencies, outlining the expanded role of providers, expanded reimbursement for telehealth services, telehealth for infant toddler intervention procedures and telehealth for behavioral health. Access Pennsylvania’s April 29, 2020 Cross-Agency Telehealth Guidance here.

Rural Health CEO on the Financial Struggles of COVID-19

Gabriel Perna | April 24, 2020

The ongoing struggles of rural health care in America are not a secret to anyone in this industry.  

In 2019, a record 19 rural hospitals closed. Thus far in 2020, nine hospitals have already closed and the COVID-19 pandemic, with its devastating impact on hospital operating margins, threatens to make it a much more staggering amount.  

Financial resources dedicated to providers in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act will help, rural health advocates say. The National Rural Health Association says that half of rural hospitals and providers operated at a financial loss before the pandemic. The loss of revenue from the pandemic meant hundreds were at risk of closure before the funding came in. 

But the funding from Congress hasn’t come without hiccups or concerns. There were complaints that the initial $30 billion to be distributed from HHS didn’t give enough to rural providers. HHS said the next round will be geared towards rural health providers, but America’s Essential Hospitals, a trade group for vulnerable health systems and hospitals, has concerns about how the agency targets its funding dollars.  

“Targeting will require complete and accurate data, and we have concerns about technical problems providers now face as they try to comply with the department’s request for targeting data. We call on the department to extend its data submission deadline until it has resolved these technical issues and clearly and publicly communicated how it will use this information,” stated Bruce Siegel, MD, President and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. The group also wants HHS to minimize the application process to streamline funding.  

Read more.

Guidance Available on Telehealth and HHS-Operated Risk Adjustment for Individual and Small Group Health Insurance Health Plans

In response to the increased need for providing telehealth due to COVID-19, CMS has given additional consideration to telehealth services in HHS-operated risk adjustment for issuers in the individual and small group health insurance markets inside and outside the Marketplaces. CMS’ new guidance clarifies which telehealth services are valid for HHS-operated risk adjustment data submission in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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