KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

In Rural Alaska, New Rules Reshape Care Often Hampered By Isolation

Two news outlets examine some of the difficulties in providing care in Alaska.

The New York Times: Health Care Is Spread Thin On Alaskan Frontier
(Dr. Ellen Hodges) oversees health care for a population of 28,000, mostly Alaska Natives, here in the state’s far west end, spread out over an area the size of Oregon that has almost no roads. People can travel by boat or snow machine at certain times of the year, but not right now: the Kuskokwim River, which wends through Bethel to the Bering Sea, is choked with unstable melting ice in late May, magnifying the isolation that defines everything in what may be America’s emptiest corner. ... The complex machinery of health care is being reimagined everywhere in the nation through the combined prism of new regulations and shifting economics, even here on the continent's frosted fringe (Johnson, 5/28).

NPR: For Ailing Vets In Rural Areas, Tele-Medicine Can Be The Cure
"Travel is a big burden on a veteran who may be older, not feeling well," says Susan Yeager, who directs the VA health care system for (Alaska),  "and just the sheer expense of travel. That can be a barrier to care and that's part of what tele-medecine's about." "Tele-medicine" happens over a secure computer connection between the big VA hospital in Anchorage and hundreds of small clinics across Alaska. Each clinic has a cart -- picture your old desktop computer with retractable cables that connect it to everything in a doctor's little black bag -- a stethoscope, an otoscope to look in ears, high-resolution cameras and an ultra-sound (Lawrence, 5/29).

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