In addition to the financial issues, there are other issues that rural communities are faced with [such as] the availability of physicians. As the country is faced with a physician shortage, both now and into the future, it makes recruitment of physicians into rural areas more difficult. And we talked to the Secretary about incentives or initiatives or current programs that might be able to help rural communities.
In addition, we talked about barriers for midlevel health practitioners—nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse anesthetists—to make sure that there were no barriers for their practice, and that their scope of practice in any given state, was fully recognized by the federal government.
HLM: What were participants' major concerns related to health IT?
Scanlan: There were several. One was just the ability of a small community and a small hospital to be able to have both the human and financial resources to put in place a sophisticated information technology [system]. Secondly, the ability to communicate with other providers or hospitals, such as use of telemedicine, and having the kind of infrastructure—broadband or otherwise—that allows that kind of communication to take place.
HLM: Did anything surprise you during the roundtable?
Scanlan: There weren't surprises. There was more a good sense of what the Secretary's priorities are: quality issues and access to care. The conversations around clinical staff availability, telemedicine, [and] ambulatory care all really centered around access and making sure that people had care available to them and [that] the care that is available to them [is] delivered in a quality fashion.