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6 Blogs on Improving Health Outcomes in Rural Communities

Published on 11/14/2018
On the third Thursday in November, health care professionals across the country celebrate National Rural Health Day. It is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” and to recognize the outstanding efforts of rural health providers who support small towns around the country.

Health professionals, hospitals and clinics across the nation deserve our praise for their collaborative, innovative and educational efforts to improve health in rural communities. In honor of this special day, here are six blogs on the importance of prioritizing technology that empowers these health care providers.

1. The Rural Health Care Challenge 
Dave Dellasega, President and Chief Executive Officer, Great Plains Health Alliance

Rural hospitals provide essential health care services to nearly 57 million people across the country and are often an integral part of the local economy, providing jobs and a tax base for the community. In his blog, Dellasega outlines how differences in the health needs of rural and urban populations can contribute to the struggle of rural hospitals. Because these hospitals can be especially vulnerable to federal funding changes, supportive models can create an efficient patient experience that benefit community members, patients and providers alike.

“Rural America is an integral part of this country’s fabric – it’s where our food is grown, our livestock is raised and our coal is mined. Geography shouldn’t be a factor in the quality of a person’s health care — when rural hospitals can stay open, these communities not only survive, they and the rest of the country benefit.” – Dave Dellasega

2. Leveraging Technology to Improve Rural Health Outcomes in the Now and Next 
Mitchell Clark, Sr. Vice President, CommunityWorks

Rural health care providers deserve to have reliable, seamlessly integrated technology across all the departments they support. Clark explains the unique set of challenges that rural health care organizations face – including budget crunches, an aging patient population and a shrinking workforce – as they operate in an unstable environment year to year. While some view technology as a limitation, Clark suggests that the correct solutions catered specifically toward rural providers can open doors for hospitals and entire communities. 

“As rural hospitals figure out how to do more with less, there needs to be a way to leverage available resources. While any rural hospitals view technology as one of the greatest limitations and challenges they face in today’s landscape, it could also be the key that opens doors for their hospital and community.” – Mitchell Clark

3. Be Small, Be Bold
Dr. Michelle Flemmings, CMIO, Pagosa Springs Medical Center

It is no secret that small, rural hospitals tend to face many unique challenges while also sharing the common obstacles faced by larger, more urban hospitals and health systems. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities. However, these communities cover 95 percent of our country. Dr. Flemmings serves as the CMIO of Pagosa Springs Medical Center, the smallest independent critical-access hospital to receive the prestigious HIMSS Stage 7 designation. In her blog, she urges other rural care providers to be bold in their approach to technology, services, partnerships and processes. 

“Even with the odds seemingly stacked against us, it doesn’t mean rural health care organizations have to just accept the situation and trudge on with our heads down ... I am a firm believer that even if an organization is small, it can absolutely still be bold. Being small and being bold are not mutually exclusive characterizations.” – Dr. Michelle Flemmings

4. Tackling the Opioid Epidemic: Where to Begin 
Dr. Mike Fadden, Director and Chief Medical Officer, Physician Alignment

There is no question that the U.S. is suffering from an opioid crisis. While addiction affects people from all walks of life in urban, suburban and rural areas, geographically isolated communities are impacted with more overdose deaths than those in large metropolitan areas. In his blog, Dr. Fadden, director and chief medical officer of Physician Alignment at Cerner, discusses the roots of the current epidemic and how these have manifested into unique challenges in rural areas. In addition, Dr. Fadden outlines several strategies that care providers can employ to address opioid abuse head-on. 

“I risk understating it when I say that surviving an accidental overdose can be a motivational wake-up call. When a person becomes open to treatment for opioid addiction, the environment of care must be ready. Ideas here include greater and immediate access to medication-assisted treatment programs, first dose suboxone in the ED and the use of ‘peer’ coaches.” – Dr. Mike Fadden

5. The Power of Partnership for Rural Hospitals 
Adam Willmann, FACHE, President and CEO, Goodall-Witcher Hospital Authority

Based in Clifton, Texas, Goodall-Witcher Hospital Authority offers complete inpatient and outpatient care to residents of Bosque County and other surrounding areas. As an independent critical-access hospital, GWHA has benefited through several partnerships with health care associations and IT suppliers within its community and even with other neighboring hospitals which would otherwise be considered competitors. By leveraging these successful partnerships, the hospital meets patient needs in a unique way that also enhances its reputation within the small community. 

“Our greatest partnership is with our community. Rural hospitals and providers understand this partnership better than most. Without our community, GWHA would not be around. We are the largest employer in the community, and we take that responsibility seriously and work to give back to our county.” – Adam Willmann

6. How Hospitals can Benefit from a LEAN Model 
Jennifer Newton, Chief Nursing Officer, Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center

Jennifer Newton serves as chief nursing officer at Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center, one of the largest critical-access hospitals in the state of Kansas. In her blog, Newton explains the increasing impact of LEAN thinking (a structured way to solve problems that cause waste in a system) in the health care industry. By adopting LEAN management practices in their hospital, leaders at Neosho Memorial have effectively identified waste and standardized processes, which has ultimately improved the patient and provider experience.

“Largely, our customers want and expect us to use our time – and theirs – efficiently. LEAN teaches us to focus on the areas of waste that is not value added for our patients. Using LEAN tools, we can try to eliminate those forms of waste in our system.” – Jennifer Newton

Cerner CommunityWorksâ„   has been delivering cloud-based EHR technology paired with managed services since 2009, empowering rural health care organizations to keep up with the ever-changing health care landscape. Learn more here.