Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Medicare Extreme and Uncontrollable Exceptions Applications – Due December 31

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging clinicians to submit an application now if there are concerns about the effect of COVID-19 on their performance data for the Quality Payment Program.  Learn more details about how the extreme and uncontrollable exception will change data reporting requirements. Clinicians should cite COVID-19 as the reason for the application.

Emergency Call for Volunteer Health Care Professionals

The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Rural Medicine Program seeks emergency volunteers for Indian Health Service sites within the Great Plains Area. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indian and Alaska Native persons appear to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and insufficient public health resources may contribute to the disparity. Qualifying volunteers are physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and respiratory therapists who are currently licensed in any of the 50 US states. MGH anticipates that travel expenses will be eligible for reimbursement. Please direct questions to

CARES Act Supports Online Resource for Professional Licensure

The website for the Multi-Discipline Licensure Resource Project was created to support pandemic response through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the FORHP-supported Licensure Portability Program.  Created by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the site provides up-to-date information on emergency regulation and licensing in each state for psychologists, occupational therapists, physical assistants, and social workers.

Rural Health Care Surge Readiness

Rural communities face unique health care challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Healthcare Resilience Working Group has developed a collection of essential resources, tools, and trainings that can help health care workers and organizations – including EMS or 9-1-1, inpatient or hospital care, ambulatory care, and long-term care – prepare for and respond to COVID-19. New and updated resources are added regularly like the PPE Preservation Planning Guide and Telemedicine Hack training.

Access the one-stop shop for rural health care.

Key Policy Challenges and Opportunities to Improve Care for People with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAM) recently published, “Key Policy Challenges and Opportunities to Improve Care for People with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Proceedings of a Workshop.” This HRSA-supported report is a product of NAM’s Forum on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders and describes the presentations and discussions held in October 2019 during the inaugural workshop.

Read the report.

How Pfizer Plans to Distribute Its Vaccine

Pfizer announced that early analysis showed that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective. Now Pfizer, government agencies and the public health community are focused on how to make millions of doses of the vaccine and distribute them to the hospitals, clinics and pharmacies where people will receive two separate injections. If the FDA approves the vaccine in the coming weeks, as expected, Pfizer could in theory vaccinate millions of Americans by the end of the year. However, as the New York Times notes, this process hinges on the cooperation of multiple federal, state and local agencies, as well as providers and other stakeholders. The full New York Times article is available here.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Outpatient Care

In their fifth report on outpatient health care service utilization during the pandemic, the Commonwealth Fund tracked outpatient visit trends through Oct. 10. The report notes that while utilization has rebounded significantly from earlier in the pandemic, providers continue to face challenges keeping patients and clinicians safe while also maintaining revenue. The report provides charts illustrating that overall visit counts per week have fully rebounded. In total, weekly visit counts now slightly exceed pre-pandemic levels. However, there is considerable variation by patient age, geographic area, clinical specialty and insurance coverage. The full report is available here.