Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rural Health Bill Introduced

The “Rural Health Quality Advisory Commission Act” was introduced on May 21st by Representatives Stephanie Herseth Sandlin from North Dakota and Greg Walden from Oregon. The legislation creates an expert Rural Health Quality Advisory Commission to implement a national plan to improve rural health quality and to identify strategies to eliminate gaps in the rural health system capacity.

Representative Herseth Sandlin said, “The establishment of the Commission will ensure that the differences between care in urban and rural areas are appropriately recognized and that national quality measures ensure access to quality healthcare.”

While the majority of healthcare quality improvement tools can be applicable equally in urban and rural areas, experts have found that there are also differences. For example, a quality measure applicable in an urban setting may address conditions that are not often treated or procedures that are not commonly performed in small rural hospitals. Plus procedures and processes such as triage, stabilization, and transfer of patients can be particularly important in rural hospitals.

The legislation authorizes $30 million to create the Commission and to design and implement five demonstration projects to evaluate methods to improve the quality of healthcare in rural communities. The Commission would use the information gathered from the demonstration projects to make national recommendations based on lessons learned.

Each demonstration project would need to address safety and effectiveness for patients in the community. Attention would need to be given to workforce support, quality monitoring and reporting, clinical care protocols, and information technology applications. Healthcare providers and delivery systems in rural areas and rural research centers are eligible to apply.