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$1 Billion Invested in Rural Health Care Across 13 States

Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog. See the original post here.

In late 2011, the President announced a White House Rural Council initiative lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in rural health and link rural doctors and hospitals to financing for health IT. The initiative was designed to address the need for financing to support the adoption of health IT systems in rural communities. Financing has been cited as one of the top challenges for rural doctors and hospitals serving remote and poor communities.

Between 2012 and 2014, the HHS and USDA led initiative generated approximately $1 Billion in rural health care financing across 13 states. These investments, funded by USDA, included grants and loans to help rural clinics and hospitals transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), encourage exchange of health information with health care providers and patients, and offer telehealth services.

Since it launched in 2012, the initiative has expanded access to financing for rural health care needs through cross-government collaboration and partnerships with non-Government organizations—including bringing together diverse teams to achieve common goals and using existing programs in innovative ways.

Dr. Albert Warren, MD consults with a patient and records the patient’s symptoms on an electronic tablet

R.J. Taylor Memorial Hospital, Inc. Family Medicine Physician Dr. Albert Warren, MD consults with a patient and records the patient’s symptoms on an electronic tablet in Hawkinsville, GA on Mar. 6, 2013. The hospital is a licensed private, not-for-profit acute care facility providing emergency, specialty and primary health care in a rural area of Georgia that has a high percentage of people living below the state average poverty level and considered most economically distressed. The hospital has purchased an Electronic Medical Records System under an incentive program by the Federal government through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Community Facilities Loan (CF) that ensures fiscally responsive access to superior quality integrated health care. (USDA Photo by Bob Nichols)

Collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative

Beginning in 2012, HHS and USDA launched a series of activities to link rural communities to funding from USDA Rural Development financing assistance programs, including the Community Facilities grant and loan programs, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program and the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. See our joint blog posting about how Rural Development invested $8.6 Million in DLT grants for rural health care related projects in 2014.

Other key partners joined the effort to offer financing assistance. For example, the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) made available a new Rural Health IT Loan Fund to help health care providers across eight states. Through this initiative, DRA offered interest free loans to small practices, particularly physicians and dentists in underserved areas to assist with adoption and meaningful use of EHRs. In addition, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funded rural health IT projects.

Local, non-Federal partners (i.e., rural electric cooperatives, rural telephone cooperatives, and municipal utilities) also engaged in support of rural health care and health IT. These organizations passed along Federal funds, REDLG program funds that only they may access directly, to clinics and hospitals in the form of a zero percent loan over ten years.

Importantly, we began convening state-specific, in-person workshops to bring Government and non-Government partners to the table with health care providers to find creative solutions for challenges that rural and poor communities face accessing financing for rural health care and rural health IT. By the end of 2014, we convened workshops to reach doctors, clinics and hospitals in each of 13 states: Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming and Kentucky.

For more information on this initiative, please contact Leila Samy at