Health care is a hot-button issue for most Americans, including Texans living in rural areas. Many of our farmers and ranchers face serious challenges in acquiring adequate preventative and emergency care.
Compared to urban areas, most rural communities lack critical access to health care facilities, primary care physicians and other medical professionals.
Reportedly, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas nationwide. Even more startling is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says almost one in three adults living in rural America is in poor to fair health, and nearly half of rural residents have at least one major chronic illness.
One solution to this shortfall is video-conferencing technology that allows rural health care professionals to link to a large medical center to receive treatment advice from urban doctors. This viable health care option for rural residents, however, faces a new rule change. Late last year the Texas Medical Board considered requiring all health care professionals who use video con-ferencing to be licensed as a doctor, physician assistant or an advanced-practice nurse. The very reason telemedicine is needed in rural communities is to be able to have access to more doctors and higher-level practitioners in more populated areas via teleconferencing. To require rural communities to have these practitioners, as opposed to nurses and other similar medical personnel, defeats the entire purpose of rural tele-medicine. The Texas Medical Board received several comments on the rule change and I commend their decision to host a stakeholder meeting to reconsider it.
I encourage all Texans to take a good look at our current health care resources and encourage policy makers to find ways to expand opportunities, not diminish them. When it comes to rural health care, there is always room for exploring new approaches and maximizing technology to best serve our farmers and ranchers, and the communities that support them in giving us the most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world.