Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Updated Value Based Care Assessment Tool Released

he Rural Health Value team is pleased to announce the release of an updated version of our Value-Based Care (VBC) Assessment Tool. The structure of the assessment, including eight categories with capacities or best practices, remains the same; however, language has been updated in the capacity statements to add clarity and specificity. This online tool helps organizations assess readiness and supports strategic planning for the shift to value-based care and payment. The resulting report and additional tools can be used to help guide the development of action plans.

Value-Based Care Assessment Resources include:

Related resources on the Rural Health Value website:

Demonstrating Your Value: A Guide to Potential Value-based Care Partnerships for Rural Health Care Organizations– this Rural Health Value resource assists CAH leadership in demonstrating the value CAHs bring to networks, affiliations, payers, community-based organizations, or accountable care organizations.

Pennsylvania’s WellSpan Health and Evangelical Community Hospital Announce Definitive Agreement to Combine Health Systems

WellSpan Health and Evangelical Community Hospital have entered into a definitive agreement to enhance community-based health care across the region. Pending regulatory approval, Evangelical Community Hospital will become WellSpan Evangelical Community Hospital on or about July 1, 2024. Their accompanying network of care serving the Central Susquehanna Valley will also join WellSpan, expanding the combined reach of the organizations across 12 counties in Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.

A mutual commitment to reimagining healthcare through exceptional, innovative clinical care along with WellSpan’s successful approach to value and superior outcomes which are affordable and convenient serves as the cornerstone of the affiliation.

“We recognize the shared vision WellSpan has for community-based care, and we were deliberate in the decision to choose a partner who would ensure our patients continue to receive the high quality care they have come to expect from Evangelical Community Hospital,” said Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital. “The industry is facing strong financial and workforce headwinds, and this integration will provide the best path forward, so we may continue to provide for the health and wellness needs of our communities well into the future.”

Serving the Central Susquehanna Valley, Evangelical Community Hospital is the only Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 5-star rated hospital in the region. It employs 1,900 individuals and has more than 170 employed and non-employed physicians on staff at its hospital licensed to care for patients in its 131 licensed beds. The hospital provides a comprehensive array of services in both inpatient and outpatient settings and serves residents in Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties.

The affiliation joins Evangelical with WellSpan’s integrated health care delivery system, which includes more than 21,000 team members, 2,000 employed providers, 220 locations, and eight award-winning hospitals, including the region’s largest behavioral health network and a Level 1 Trauma Center. WellSpan currently serves residents in Adams, Cumberland, Lancaster, Lebanon, Franklin, and York counties in Pennsylvania and Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland.

Combined, the organizations will serve more than 1.3 million patients across 12 counties.

Read more.

Study Published: Education in Rural Areas Increases Tendency to Practice There

A study by researchers from the Cecil Sheps Center for Health Services at the University of North Carolina and the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNET) analyzed survey data from licensed clinicians working in rural safety net practices across 21 states from 2015 to 2022. They found that nearly two-thirds of the 778 survey respondents had, during their formal education, experienced medically underserved populations in rural counties. This clearly links educational opportunities in rural areas with clinicians’ likelihood to eventually practice in rural areas. These results support the integration of clinicians within these communities for longer retention in rural safety net practices. Read more on preparing behavioral health clinicians for success and retention in rural safety net practices.

Health Care Has a Discrimination Problem

More than half of healthcare workers say racial discrimination against patients is a major problem or crisis, while nearly half report seeing it happen in their own workplaces, according to a large national survey. Why it matters: It’s well-documented how racism in health care settings can harm patients’ health. But witnessing it can also hurt health care workers’ wellbeing. By the numbers: Black and Latino health care workers were more likely to report seeing racial or ethnic discrimination against patients compared with Asian American and Pacific Islander and white workers. There’s also a generational divide: 64% of health care workers ages 18 to 29 said they’ve seen patients face discrimination, compared with 25% of workers 60 and older. Nearly half of healthcare workers (48%) said medical professionals are more accepting when white patients advocate for themselves than when Black patients do the same. Healthcare systems should make it easier for workers and patients to submit anonymous reports, train staff to recognize unfair treatment, and introduce more opportunities to listen to patients and workers of color, the report said. Click here to read more.

Wellspan Is Rolling Out Pennsylvania’s First Med Delivery by Drone

WellSpan Health is partnering with Zipline, the world’s largest autonomous delivery service, to use Zipline’s electric, autonomous drones to transport prescriptions directly to patients’ homes and move lab samples and medical products between its facilities. WellSpan is the first health system to introduce this type of technology and delivery system at scale in Pennsylvania. Read more.

CBO Finds Increased Health Center Funding = Overall Savings

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for the first time, has officially recognized that investments in primary care save taxpayer dollars! Increased funding for health centers is associated with lower spending on emergency departments, hospitalizations, and other expensive outpatient services in the CBO’s cost estimate of the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act (S. 2840). In addition, the House Budget Committee advanced H.R. 766, the Preventative Health Savings Act, which would revamp how the CBO determines the financial cost of preventative health care, making it easier for Congress to pass larger funding increases for health centers.

CMS Offers New Vaccine Coverage and Payment Toolkit

A new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) toolkit, Coverage and Payment of Vaccines and Vaccine Administration under Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Basic Health Program (PDF), can help you understand coverage, cost-sharing, and payment for vaccines and vaccine administration. It addresses the federally funded Vaccines for Children program and assists in navigating vaccination coverage requirements. It also offers guidance regarding the commercialization of COVID-19 vaccines and the end of the American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 vaccination coverage period (September 2024).

Heads Up – HRSA Implements New Payment Management System Login Process

In response to recent incidents of fraudulent activity and to strengthen the federal Payment Management System (PMS), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Federal Assistance Management (OFAM) has implemented a new login process for grant recipients and federal awarding agency staff. The user login process now includes a multi-factor authentication tool called This change, already in effect, aims to strengthen the system’s identity verification of all PMS users. Read more in a bulletin published by HRSA’s Office of Federal Assistance Management (OFAM).

HRSA Implements New EHB Registration Processes

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Information Technology recently upgraded the agency’s Electronic Handbooks (EHBs) to increase security. New registrations will require the person named as an Authorizing Official in the EHBs to confirm registration requests. For example, the official could approve adding a new employee, giving that person access to the information within the EHBs. These changes only apply to future registrations. No action is required for people who are already registered. Starting next month, Authorizing Officials will be prompted to do an annual review of EHBs registrations, allowing them to remove any people who are no longer with the organization. To learn more about these changes, watch the “EHBs External User Organization Process Changes” video on HRSAtube. The HRSA website includes additional resources to help you use the EHBs, including a library of videos and FAQs.

Congress Introduces Workforce Innovation Act

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is endorsing a new bill that will support health center workforce needs. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) introduced the bipartisan Health Care Workforce Innovation Act (H.R. 7307) earlier this month. The bill would authorize a new grant program to scale up health center-led workforce development programs, such as partnerships with schools, more preceptorships, and innovative career laddering programs. Click here for a link to Rep. Molinaro’s press release.