Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Read About JAMA Viewpoint: The Emergence of Rural Emergency Hospitals

  An open-access opinion in the online Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Network) examines the new federal designation that would convert eligible rural hospitals to facilities that exclusively provide emergency and outpatient services.  The authors identify potential benefits that may prevent closure of a growing number of at-risk hospitals. They also describe a number of potential unintended consequences that will need to be monitored, such as increasing the difficulty of recruiting and retaining rural clinicians.

New Study Reseraching Factors Affecting Recruitment, Retention of Rural Clinicians

 The Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture surveyed healthcare professionals in 150 small towns across nine U.S. states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. Researchers learned that, among those surveyed, personal and professional relationships were the most important factor for moving to and staying in a rural practice.

New Funding Begins for Rural Communities Opioid Response Programs – Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health

 HRSA is accepting applications for the FY 2023 Rural Communities Opioid Response Program – Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health (RCORP-CABH). The purpose of this program is to establish and expand sustainable behavioral health care services for children and adolescents aged 5-17 years who live in rural communities, and to prevent substance misuse. Over the four-year period of performance, award recipients will use RCORP-CABH funding to establish and expand service delivery, provide training and peer mentorship, and develop community partnerships. Eligible applicants include all domestic public or private, non-profit or for-profit entities.  Applications are due May 12, 2023.

Stories Needed for the Pennsylvania Dental Story Bank!

Have you struggled to get a dental appointment for yourself or a child? Did you visit the emergency room or urgent care for a dental problem in the last year? Has it been difficult to find a dentist that takes your insurance? PA Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH) is collecting stories from all 67 counties around dental issues in our state. Your story can help us let decision-makers know that change is needed to protect the smiles of all Pennsylvanians. We will share these stories to push for changes to the current system.

Submit your story by April 4th for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

Click here to submit your story.

Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry Releases Regulation Updates

The Pennsylvana State Board of Dentistry is soliciting comments for two draft regulation updates. Comments can be emailed to no later than April 28th. The first is a draft annex relating to the administration of anesthesia and would establish requirements for a nitrous oxide/oxygen inhalation analgesia monitoring permit for dental hygienists. The second is a general update of the Board’s regulations relating to examinations, licensure, biennial renewal, inactive status, reactivation, EFDA program approval, titles, fictitious names, advertising specialties, unprofessional conduct, multidisciplinary professional practice, radiological procedures and continuing education.

Click here for the anesthesia update.
Click here for the general update.

New! A Conceptual Framework for Optimizing the Equity of Hospital-Based Emergency Care: The Structure of Hospital Transfer Networks

During COVID surges, many hospitals with capacity refused to accept transfer patients because of patients’ uninsured status and complexities associated with interhospital transfer systems, leading to overcrowding at safety-net hospitals.

Charleen Hsuan and colleagues from Penn State University and researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai propose the hospital transfer network equity-quality model (NET-EQUITY) — a conceptual framework for understanding emergency department transfers — to foster an equitable population-based system for emergency care. The NET-EQUITY framework explores emergency department networks, spotlights the factors that contribute to inequitable transfer networks, and offers policy responses.

The structure of hospital transfer networks influences patient outcomes, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, which includes equity. The structure of hospital transfer networks is shaped by internal and external factors. The four main external factors are the regulatory, economic environment, provider, and sociocultural and physical/built environment. These environments all implicate issues of equity that are important to understand to foster an equitable population-based system of emergency care. The framework highlights external and internal factors that determine the structure of hospital transfer networks, including structural racism and inequity.

The NET-EQUITY framework provides a patient-centered, equity-focused framework for understanding the health of populations and how the structure of hospital transfer networks can influence the quality of care that patients receive.

Read the article here.

HRSA Announces Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Modernization Initiative

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced a Modernization Initiative that includes several actions to strengthen accountability and transparency in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN):

  1. Data dashboards detailing individual transplant center and organ procurement organization data on organ retrieval, waitlist outcomes, and transplants, and demographic data on organ donation and transplant;
  2. Modernization of the OPTN IT system in line with industry-leading standards, improving OPTN governance, and increasing transparency and accountability in the system to better serve the needs of patients and families;
  3. HRSA’s intent to issue contract solicitations for multiple awards to manage the OPTN in order to foster competition and ensure OPTN Board of Directors’ independence;
  4. The President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal to more than double investment in organ procurement and transplantation with a $36 million increase over Fiscal Year 2023 for a total of $67 million; and,
  5. A request to Congress included in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget to update the nearly 40-year-old National Organ Transplant Act to take actions such as rRemoving the appropriations cap on the OPTN contract(s) to allow HRSA to better allocate resources, and expanding the pool of eligible contract entities to enhance performance and innovation through increased competition.

“Every day, patients and families across the United States rely on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to save the lives of their loved ones who experience organ failure,” said Carole Johnson, HRSA Administrator. “At HRSA, our stewardship and oversight of this vital work is a top priority. That is why we are taking action to both bring greater transparency to the system and to reform and modernize the OPTN. The individuals and families that depend on this life-saving work deserve no less.”

Today, HRSA is posting on its website a new data dashboard to share de-identified information on organ donors, organ procurement, transplant waitlists, and transplant recipients. Patients, families, clinicians, researchers, and others can use this data to inform decision-making as well as process improvements. Today’s launch is an initial data set, which HRSA intends to refine over time and update regularly.

This announcement also includes a plan to strengthen accountability, equity, and performance in the organ donation and transplantation system. This iterative plan will specifically focus on five key areas: technology; data transparency; governance; operations; and quality improvement and innovation. In implementing this plan, HRSA intends to issue contract solicitations for multiple awards to manage and improve the OPTN. HRSA also intends to further the OPTN Board of Directors’ independence through the contracting process and the use of multiple contracts. Ensuring robust competition in every industry is a key priority of the Biden-Harris Administration and will help meet the OPTN Modernization Initiative’s goals of promoting innovation and the best quality of service for patients.

Finally, the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2024 would more than double HRSA’s budget for organ-related work, including OPTN contracting and the implementation of the Modernization Initiative, to total $67 million. In addition, the Budget requests statutory changes to the National Organ Transplant Act to remove the decades-old ceiling on the amount of appropriated funding that can be awarded to the statutorily required vendor(s) for the OPTN.  It also requests that Congress expand the pool of eligible contract entities to enhance performance and innovation through increased competition, particularly with respect to information technology vendors.

HRSA recognizes that while modernization work is complex, the integrity of the organ matching process is paramount and cannot be disrupted. That is why HRSA’s work will be guided by and centered around several key priorities, including the urgent needs of the more than 100,000 individuals and their families awaiting transplant; the 24/7 life-saving nature of the system; and patient safety and health. HRSA intends to engage with a wide and diverse group of stakeholders early and often to ensure a human-centered design approach that reflects pressing areas of need and ensuring experiences by system users like patients are addressed first. As a part of this commitment, HRSA has created an OPTN Modernization Website to keep stakeholders informed about the Modernization Initiative and provide regular progress updates.

USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Build Community-Oriented High-Speed Internet Networks for People in Rural Areas

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to build community-oriented, high-speed internet networks for people in rural areas.

The Department is making up to $79 million in grants available under the Community Connect program. Recipients may use the funds to establish high-speed internet networks that will foster economic growth and deliver enhanced educational, health care and public safety benefits.

Grant recipients must agree to provide high-speed internet service at community-serving institutions free of charge for up to two years. These institutions include schools, libraries, fire stations and other public safety sites.

To learn more, read the full Stakeholder Announcement.