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What can be done to save rural imaging?

by Valerie Dimond, Contributing Reporter | December 04, 2020
Business Affairs
From the November 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: Are you familiar with the federal government's new rural telehealth task force? And if so, are you willing to share a few thoughts and comments on your reaction to it?
EF: I am only familiar with how it was created and its purpose as described by the government's released memorandum of understanding. I have no informed comment to make at this time, since the task force is still in its infancy.

HCB News: As we look ahead to the future, are there any fundamental changes you would like to see that would improve the state of rural radiology in the U.S., post-pandemic?
EF: Leveraging telehealth, including teleradiology, as well as other emerging technologies such as AI applications, offer potential approaches to achieve more standardized levels of high quality care for our patients in under-resourced, socioeconomically-challenged, and geographically-dispersed communities commonly found in rural America.

To succeed we will need to develop national policies that provide appropriate reimbursement levels and financial incentives that enable the practical implementation of emerging technologies and care services. Additional strategies that promote local investment in these efforts would also be beneficial.

HCB News: Is there anything else important to mention about rural imaging that we haven't already discussed?
EF: I have tried to emphasize that radiologists provide critically important diagnostic and interventional services that are needed in rural communities. Radiologists and the services they provide form a critical link in the healthcare delivery chain required to provide high-quality, comprehensive care. Deficiencies in the availability and accessibility of diagnostic imaging and image-guided services in our rural communities leads to delays in diagnoses, and in many instances, significantly higher care costs. It is in everyone's interest to address these deficiencies. Rural communities are critically important to sustaining our country's access to our most basic and essential needs: affordable energy, clean water, food production, and outdoor recreation. We need to invest in the resources necessary to provide high-quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare services to the rural communities that support these essentials.

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