Medicare Announces Rural Health Project Participants with Telehealth as a Goal

Aug. 5, 2016
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’ new project that will aim to increase access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in areas of the country where access to health services can be limited will leverage telehealth as one of its aiding services.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’ new project that will aim to increase access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in areas of the country where access to health services can be limited will leverage telehealth as one of its aiding services.

The government’s Frontier Community Health Integration Project (FCHIP) Demonstration, set to begin this month, will include 10 critical access hospitals (CAHs) in Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota. The FCHIP Demonstration, a statutory mandate launched by the CMS Innovation Center in collaboration with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, located in the Health Resources and Services Administration, will test new models of integrated, coordinated healthcare in the most sparsely populated rural counties in the nation over three years.

This demonstration program will encourage the 10 CAHs to provide essential services that are often not financially viable in rural communities with the goals of improving quality of care, increasing patient satisfaction in rural communities, and spending healthcare dollars more wisely, CMS said in an announcement. The demonstration will provide financial incentives for care coordination activities for local CAHs to reduce unnecessary admissions and readmissions across their networks of care.

Specifically, the demonstration aims to:

  • support the CAH and local delivery system in keeping patients within the community who might otherwise be transferred to distant providers;
  • test whether payments for certain services will enhance access to care for patients, increase the integration and coordination of care among providers, and reduce avoidable hospitalizations, admissions, and transfers; and
  • test new CAH activities in three service categories: skilled nursing care, telehealth, and ambulance services.

“Medicare beneficiaries who live in frontier areas of the country sometimes travel hundreds of miles to see a doctor. This increases the cost of care and can discourage beneficiaries from seeking treatment,” Patrick Conway, M.D., principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer at CMS, said in a statement. “The effort that is beginning today will look at ways to shrink the distance between the Medicare beneficiary and the care they need.”

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