Task force meets to discuss rural healthcare solutions

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – There’s no denying Louisiana’s healthcare in general needs improvement, but in rural communities, the problem is a lot more serious.

Recognizing the problem after decades of neglect, the legislature unanimously agreed a task force was needed with nurses and hospital executives. A sort of meeting of the minds with handpicked medical experts. Those impacted the most in rural areas are the elderly, people living in poverty, and the black community.

The lack of broadband internet restricts doctors from providing telemedicine services and prevents them from creating a health information exchange between physicians, hospitals, and clinics.

“You know, let’s say you live in a rural area, and you go to see a primary care physician there, but you’re admitted to a hospital that’s maybe 60 miles away, the folks in that hospital need to know your patient history and your background in order to provide the best care possible. So, we really need to figure out how to connect all those folks,” said Jeff Williams, the Executive Vice President of the LA Medical Society.

“Especially our marginalized populations. They’re the populations who are most effected by healthcare disparities or even environmental disparities,” said Karen Wyble who also sits on the task force.

One of the suggestions mentioned this afternoon to help connect these institutions with one another over your health data was making all of your medical records accessible through LA Wallet app, but that idea fell flat.

“I believe you not only have some HIPPA violations there, but the data is so different depending on which electronic medical record it’s coming from or where it’s coming from. I.e. a physician’s office, pharmacy, a lab, I really don’t think there’s an easy way to do that, it’s a very robust issue,” Williams added.

Money for broadband internet has already been set aside in the state budget, but the big question is how many people will be covered. The task force plans to have a bill drafted up with solutions for the legislature to debate by February next year. The group plans to meet again in October.

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