Home Care at Center of Rural Health Challenges Probed by Assembly Hearing

From workforce shortages to rate stability, broadband access to transportation issues, home care and hospice services are among the most acutely affected by the intersection of broader challenges in rural health care delivery.

HCA President and CEO Al Cardillo pressed each of these fundamental matters during a welcome opportunity to testify at last month’s Assembly Hearing on Rural Health. His testimony is here.

Take, for instance, rural transportation challenges. These challenges most severely impact a sector of health care in which nurses and other caregivers are depended upon to access patients suffering from chronic illness or disabilities at home across often-remote regions of the state.

Broadband services and health information technology need greater investment attention as well: to extend the reach of clinicians as a further lifeline to patients in rural communities. Disease-management technologies and home telehealth monitoring help further bridge the divide – both physically and digitally – as a critical adjunct tool for use in between home care visits. Through these digital connections, patients avoid long-distance travel to the ER when a remote consult determines it is unnecessary. And with continuous remote-monitoring of vital signs, clinicians can forestall dire acute-care episodes, such as heart failure or asthma exacerbation, by arranging necessary interventions at home in coordination with physicians or other community partners before a condition worsens.

Other forms of health information technology, meanwhile, have the power to pull together an untapped abundance of data when each of these cases occurs, helping with care transitions and follow-up protocols that save lives and health care dollars – if invested in.

Of course, a qualified workforce is foremost needed to succeed in all of these efforts. HCA continues to press for core investments and state-level examination of the demographic and individual market dynamics where resources and vocational support are needed to overcome a chronic rural health workforce shortage.

HCA’s testimony referred specifically to a range of bills introduced by the Legislature this year to help solve these issues – most acutely, our workforce proposals that would address recruitment and retention from a variety of angles.

HCA will be looking to work further with legislative offices on all of these proposals. We are happy to provide your offices with further background on the needs of patients and providers in rural communities at any time.