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Rural Health Research and Policy Centers

A Gateway to Rural Health Research

Rural Health Research Centers program is designed to help policy-makers better understand the problems that rural communities face in assuring access to health care and strengthening health of their residents. The centers work to understand the ways in which the health of rural Americans can be improved, analyze the implications of federal and state policy options and communicate research results to policymakers and others who may take action based on research results.

The Research Centers Program, with a yearly budget of about $4 million, is the only Federal program entirely dedicated to producing policy-relevant research on health care and population health in rural areas. Each Research Center has its own identity (although it may be part of a larger organization), Web site, and core staff. Core staff members include a disciplinary mix of health services research, epidemiology, public health, geography, medicine, and mental health. Over the four-year award cycle, each Research Center develops a portfolio of three research projects per year in conjunction with input from the Office and other experts. The next award cycle covers 2008-12.

To strengthen the dissemination of research results of the Research Centers, the Gateway to Rural Health Research was launched in early 2007. The Gateway is a website which allows “one stop shopping” about the Research Centers. The Gateway provides easy access to the Centers’ rural publications and authors, as well as summaries of research in progress or completed. The Gateway Listserv provides e-mail updates when new publications become available. Through their research and policy analysis, the Centers bring to the forefront the health care challenges facing rural America.

Examples of Impact

Health Quality

Research: Developed and field-tested Emergency Department Transfer Communication Measures for small rural hospitals.

Impact: The National Quality Forum (NQF) endorsed the Emergency Department Transfer Communication Measures for use by all hospitals as voluntary consensus standards. (UMRHRC)

Research: Analysis of quality measure reporting and pay-for-performance in rural hospitals.

Impact: Informed the Listening Sessions on Medicare Hospital Value-based Purchasing and decision making by CMS. (UMRHRC)

Health Information Technology

Research: Roadmap for the Adoption of Health Information Technology in Rural Communities.

Impact: Findings from this study have been used by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) to channel additional resources to rural areas in order to assist in the implementation of health information technology. (Walsh)

Medicare Advantage Plan Enrollment

Research: Policy briefs in 2007 showed rural beneficiaries in types of Medicare Advantage plans as a percent of all rural beneficiaries, and rural beneficiaries as a percent of all enrollees in each type of Medicare Advantage plan.

Impact: The data were used during discussions among policy makers of the costs of the Medicare Advantage program and impacts of changing federal payment to Medicare Advantage plans. That discussion has continued into 2008. (RUPRI)

Medicare Beneficiary Choice

Research: Analysis of choices available to rural beneficiaries in the Medicare+Choice program.

Impact: Contributed to the establishment of statewide regions for PPOs in the Medicare Advantage program. (RUPRI)


Research: Analysis of health workforce shortages in Community Health Centers.
Impact: Informed a new HRSA workforce development collaborative linking Community Health Centers, Area Health Education Centers and training programs. (WWAMI)

Impact: Informed a new HRSA workforce development collaborative linking Community Health Centers, Area Health Education Centers and training programs. (WWAMI)

For additional information on this program, contact:
Joan F. Van Nostrand, DPA
Director of Research
Office of Rural Health Policy
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 9A-55
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: (301)443-0835/Fax:443-2803
E-mail: jvan_nostrand@hrsa.gov


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