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Op-Ed: Rural Health Telemedicine Can’t Fix Staffing Woes

Op-Ed: Rural Health Telemedicine Can’t Fix Staffing Woes

CMS has unveiled its first-ever Rural Health Strategy in an effort to improve access to healthcare for the estimated 60 million Americans living in rural areas. The plan includes an emphasis on modernizing and advancing telehealth and telemedicine. This is great and shows that CMS is engaged in the challenges facing healthcare providers in rural areas.

“For the first time, CMS is organizing and focusing our efforts to apply a rural lens to the vision and work of the agency,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a press release. “The Rural Health Strategy supports CMS’s goal of putting patients first. Through its implementation and our continued stakeholder engagement, this strategy will enhance the positive impacts CMS policies have on beneficiaries who live in rural areas.”

What About Bedside Care?

However, rural health telemedicine cannot replace bedside care needed by the rural population who is aging more quickly than the national average. In these regards there have been many ideas generated which include many “not-so-new” ones like closer ties with nursing programs, and hiring and retention bonuses. Good ideas as well, but the former does little in the short term while the latter puts more financial stress on already pressurized budgets. Remember CFO’s #1 concern of 2018 is cost reduction initiatives.

So now that I sound like a “Debbie Downer” here’s a positive point of view. THERE ARE well-qualified RNs that want to work in rural areas who won’t move onto other positions as fast as they are start. I see them everyday. They just might not be found where you have always looked. Namely, the internationally-trained nurse.

Here are some stats:

  • 95% of our international nurses stay at their original U.S. hospital for three years
  • 86% continue beyond 36 months
  • More than half are working at smaller hospitals in rural areas — Don’t get me wrong, we do have large blue-chip healthcare systems as clients as well.

Why does this work out for our rural hospital clients? Fit, engagement, and community bonds. Unlike travel nurses or some other international nurse staffing companies, PassportUSA simply does a better job at preparing our nurses for US arrival, providing thorough orientation in the first few weeks, and taking care of their families that enroll in the local schools, attend the churches, and so on. Their co-workers become their friends and the community in which they reside becomes their home.

Telemedicine might play a big role in the future of rural health, but if you need bedside care for your patients today we are here to help.

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