White House Rural Council focuses on health care

Published on: Sep 11, 2013

Rural Americans face unique barriers with regard to health care services. At the latest meeting of the White House Rural Council, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said there was a special focus on expanding rural access to health care.

New investments in medical facilities, expanded information technology and stronger veterans’ health care services can help meet these challenges, Vilsack said. He anticipated more announcements would be coming in the weeks and months ahead to strengthen rural health care capacity.

Today the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $4 million through its Rural Health Information Technology Program to recruit, educate, train and retain health IT specialists in rural America. These awards will allow 15 organizations across the nation to train more healthcare workers in the specialized technology needed to better manage records and deliver remote services in rural America.

"As these services are expanded, more folks in rural areas will see streamlined management of health care records. Service will be more efficient," Vilsack said. "And it will be easier for specialists to help provide remote consultations through innovative new technology."

Rural Council members also discussed ongoing efforts to expand health care services to veterans, in partnership with community organizations. Right now, the Department of Veterans Affairs is accepting applications under its Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot. This effort seeks to partner with five organizations, for two years each, to help reach out to rural veterans and their families with information on programs that could help them.