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Walter Hutto

By: Walter Hutto on July 20th, 2023

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How Rural Healthcare Programs are Improving Access to Care

Healthcare | Service Provider

What is the Rural Healthcare Program? 

The rural healthcare program is a government-funded initiative aimed at improving access to medical services for people living in rural and remote areas. The program focuses on ensuring that people in underserved regions have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, regardless of their location or financial status. According to BroadbandUSA, The RHC Program “Provides funding to eligible public and non-profit health care providers for broadband and telecommunications services necessary for the provision of health care.” [1] 

The RHC Program offers funding through: 

1)The Telecommunications (Telecom) Program 

  • Provides funding to eligible healthcare providers for telecommunications services necessary for the provision of healthcare services. This includes voice services, data services, and internet access.  
  • The program helps offset the costs associated with reliable and efficient telecommunications connectivity, ensuring that healthcare providers can effectively communicate and access critical healthcare resources. 

2) The Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) Program 

  • Provides support for broadband connectivity to eligible public or non-profit healthcare providers. It helps cover the costs of broadband infrastructure, network equipment, and related expenses.  
  • The HCF subsidizes a portion of the eligible expenses incurred by healthcare providers, reducing their financial burden and facilitating the implementation of high-speed broadband networks. 

According to SpectraCorp, 3 out of 5 participants in the HCF program are underfunded due to a lack of knowledge and necessary expertise to keep up with the ever-changing rules of the program and the complexities of the application process. [2]. If you’re currently a part of the HCF program and need assistance with bidding, navigating RFPs, and connecting with invested HCF consultants, IE can help. Inquire here!  

How Do You Qualify for Rural Healthcare Program Funding? 

Curious about becoming a part of the rural healthcare program? Here are some of the common eligibility criteria: 

Rural Location:  

The healthcare provider must be located in a rural area as defined by the RHC program guidelines. This typically includes non-urban/non-metropolitan regions with low population densities. The specific criteria for rural location may vary. 

Non-Profit or Public Status:  

Eligible healthcare providers must be either a public entity or a non-profit organization. This includes tribal healthcare providers, government-owned facilities, non-profit hospitals, and other non-profit healthcare organizations. 

Provision of Eligible Services:  

The healthcare provider must offer eligible services that align with the objectives of the RHC program and be able to demonstrate their capacity to deliver these services. These services typically include:  

  • Primary care 
  • Preventive care 
  • Basic diagnostic services 

Provider Type:  

Eligible healthcare providers include but are not limited to physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, among other healthcare professionals. 

Participation in Medicare and Medicaid:  

Eligible healthcare providers must participate in the Medicare and/or Medicaid programs. This requirement ensures that services provided through the RHC program can be reimbursed under these federal healthcare programs. 

What are the Benefits of the Rural Healthcare Program? 

Improved Access to Healthcare & Better Health Outcomes:  

These programs help to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare providers by offering primary care, specialist consultations, diagnostic tests, and emergency services. 

With regular access to medical care, patients are more likely to receive prompt treatment for health conditions, improving their overall health and well-being. 

Cost-Effective Care:  

Rural healthcare programs often use innovative approaches to deliver cost-effective care to patients. For example, telemedicine allows healthcare providers to connect with patients remotely, saving both time and money on travel.  

Additionally, mobile clinics can also provide medical services to rural communities, eliminating the need for patients to travel long distances to receive care.  

These innovative solutions are just a few examples of how the RHC is reducing the costs of healthcare.  

Community Development:  

Rural healthcare programs often serve as a vital component of community development in remote areas. These programs can create jobs, support local businesses, and provide training opportunities for healthcare professionals. By investing in rural healthcare programs, communities can help to create sustainable, long-term improvements in healthcare access and outcomes. 

Emergency Preparedness:  

Rural healthcare programs can also help to improve emergency preparedness in remote areas. These programs can provide first responders with training and resources to respond to medical emergencies and natural disasters.  

Additionally, telemedicine can enable remote consultations with specialists during emergencies, improving the quality of care and potentially saving lives. By ensuring that communities have access to emergency medical services, rural healthcare programs help to increase the resilience of remote areas in the face of disasters and emergencies. 

If you're curious to see if you qualify, but need some more insight, contact our team! 

How IE Can Help 

At Internetwork Engineering we’re invested in the Healthcare industry and can provide specialized knowledge of the inner workings of the rural healthcare program. This allows us to analyze the needs of your community, provide bidding advice so you can get the most out of your technology investments, so you can provide the care that your community needs most. IE offers consultant introductions & program referrals, education & insight into the program inner workings, RFP assistance, and more. If you have more questions, check out our Rural Healthcare Program Resource page, or submit an inquiry!