HHS Award 15 Residency Programs With Significant Funding

by | Jan 19, 2024 | Digital Health

In a bid to reinforce the health workforce and expand access to care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has awarded nearly $11 million to 15 awardees to create new residency programs in rural communities. This move comes on the heels of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarding the first 200 of 1,000 new Medicare-funded physician residency slots in January 2023, primarily for primary care and mental health specialties. These steps are indicative of the concerted effort to tackle workforce shortages and access challenges, particularly in underserved communities.

Residency Programs: Investing in Health Equity

The HRSA funding will establish residency programs in diverse specialties, across multiple states. Organizations like Cahaba Medical Care in Alabama will be using their $750,000 funding to develop a psychiatry residency program. Other recipients include the University of Hawaii Systems for Family Medicine and the University of Arizona for Multi-specialty programs. Each awardee is set to receive up to $750,000, which can be utilized for accreditation costs, curriculum development, faculty and resident recruitment activities, and consultation services to aid program development. This support includes one-on-one advisory assistance, tools, and resources provided by the HRSA-funded Rural Residency Planning and Development Technical Assistance Center, enabling recipients to navigate various stages of program development.

Strengthening Healthcare in Rural and Underserved Areas

Given that nearly 70% of areas identified as primary medical Health Professional Shortage Areas are in rural areas, it’s evident that there’s a substantial need for accessible, quality healthcare in these regions. This situation is exacerbated by factors like physician shortages, poverty, and geographical isolation, which contribute to limited access to care and poorer health outcomes. As a response to these challenges, three of the 15 awards will be used specifically to develop new family medicine residency programs with enhanced obstetrical training in rural communities. This strategic move aims to alleviate the declining access to rural maternal health care, underscoring the importance of building a pipeline of doctors experienced in addressing the unique needs and challenges of working in rural areas.

Enhancing Access to Care: An Ongoing Effort

The latest HHS award builds on HRSA’s continued investment in the Rural Residency Planning and Development program, with more than $43 million allocated from the fiscal year 2019 through 2022. HRSA’s additional programs have also strengthened the rural health workforce in fiscal year 2023, with over one in three of the 20,000 clinicians serving in the National Health Service Corps practicing in a rural community. Additionally, CMS proposed that Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs) be designated as graduate medical education training sites for fiscal year 2024, potentially enabling more medical residents to train in rural settings and help alleviate workforce shortages in these communities. These measures, alongside the HHS award, highlight the ongoing and coordinated efforts to fortify the health workforce and enhance access to care in rural and underserved areas.

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