Rural health care clinics face challenges during outbreak

Local News

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — As health care providers adjust best practices during the coronavirus pandemic, health care clinics are facing in rural Virginia face a series of setbacks.

Modern day internet service issues in rural Virginia prove problematic for providers and patients hoping to optimize ‘telehealth’ reccomendations from the state–setting up video calls or conferencing appointments.

“For someone to be able to talk to their physician over the internet they have to have internet, their physician has to have internet. In lots of rural Virginia the physician may not have it, the patient may not have it…’ ‘…and it’s expensive,” Virginia Rural Health Association Director Beth O’Connor said.

O’Connor says despite a nationwide shortage for personal protective equipment, rural clinics are competing with larger health care systems to purchase masks and other safeguards.

“When you can buy something in bulk it’s going to be cheaper overall. When you are a small clinic you don’t buy the same amount that may be a major hospital system does so if they’re trying to purchase and they’re up against a major hospital, those supplies, those price points are going to go to the big service,” O’Connor said.

Because staff sizes at the nearly 30 rural clinics in Virginia, O’Connor says it takes more time to read, interpret and implement ever-evolving federal health regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak.

O’Connor says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “made some regulation adjustments to allow rural health clinics more freedom in terms of doing telehealth. But, interpreting those rules are a little tricky and they don’t want to do something and have CMS say ‘oh no, we can’t reimburse you for that because you didn’t check X, Y, Z box.”

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