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Resiliency and resourcefulness: the power of rural health providers

by Eric Geis

Published on 11/16/2022

Every year, the third Thursday of November is is National Rural Health Day, an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded, determined spirit that prevails in rural America.

Healthcare providers in rural communities often face the challenge of doing more with less. Geographic isolation, workforce shortages, technology disparities, and diminishing resources continue to make delivering high-quality care challenging. Community and critical access hospitals across the nation are often the heartbeat of their communities, yet many continue to fight just to keep their doors open.

With more than 60 million people residing in rural areas in the US—many of them older and living with several chronic health issues—rural healthcare is a critical necessity to caring for a community.

Over the past decade, community and critical access hospitals have found themselves under tremendous strain as they serve their patient populations. And while everyone in healthcare is trying to do more with less, these struggles tend to exponentially affect rural communities.

Helping rural health systems

The positive outcomes rural health systems have experienced are that much sweeter considering the strain and challenges they've faced. I want to shine light on just a few of the innovative approaches we’ve seen from some community and critical access clients.

Rural Nebraska-based Osmond General Hospital—a 20-bed critical access hospital serving an 800-person community—has brought research opportunities to their small community. By participating in the Cerner Learning Health Network, they enrolled in their first clinical trial, which focuses on early detection of colorectal cancer. It resulted in a community participant testing positive with the at-home screening test. After receiving a positive diagnosis, she began her treatment and recovery program potentially years earlier than if she wasn’t able to participate in the trial.

St. John’s Health in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, recently began an effort to drive efficiency and minimize duplicative work for their providers. By using the Cerner Immunization Registry Reporting and Query to electronically send and retrieve vaccine data from the Wyoming Immunization Registry (WyIR), providers were able to remove the need to view and document vaccination information in both the electronic health record (EHR) and WyIR site. This frequently used tool in both acute and ambulatory venues has driven a reduction in manual processes and facilitates the exchange of vaccine data almost immediately, thus reducing workload for providers.

Building for the future

Oracle Cerner believes everyone deserves access to high-quality care, regardless of their ZIP Code. Because rural providers are often caring for their neighbors, they know their patients well. With limited resources and minimal staffing sourced within their communities, they need the right tools to expand access to quality care that will allow them to do the most with what they have.

We launched our CommunityWorksSM delivery model over a decade ago to bring innovative technology and delivery to the smallest hospitals around the country. Today we have almost 300 CommunityWorks clients and are adding more each month.

CommunityWorks provides a comprehensive, integrated product portfolio with professional and managed services to help providers operate world-class EHRs. We’re investing heavily in clinical, revenue cycle, consumer, interoperability, and population health to ensure rural providers have what they need to meet the needs of their patients and communities.

As technology and healthcare evolve, it becomes increasingly critical that rural healthcare providers have the tools necessary to help streamline clinical and administrative workflows and access patient data to deliver efficient, effective care for their communities. From harnessing the power of big data to leveraging tools such as telemedicine, they can deliver care where it’s most convenient for their patients.

I’m incredibly proud of the work we’re doing with our rural clients and our continued commitment to advance healthcare in rural communities across the country. And I look forward to celebrating the power of rural for many years to come.

Oracle Cerner is proud to celebrate National Rural Health Day. Through Cerner CommunityWorks, we deliver cloud-based EHR technology with managed services that empower rural healthcare organizations to keep up with the everchanging healthcare landscape.