Update from the CEO: Opportunities in the New Year

Happy New Year!

With the start of every year we are faced with both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities that lay ahead are highlighting the power of rural and strengthening what we do best, primary care! As you know primary care is highlighted and a central part of the Affordable Care Act and how our country intends to move forward with healthcare.

Last year the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) released a policy brief entitled, The Future of Rural Health. I have the great honor and privilege of sitting on the NRHA Policy Congress, the entity that wrote the document. The policy brief highlights why rural health is different, the current status of the rural health system, environment for change, core concepts and principles of rural health services, concerns unique to rural health, the role of electronic technologies, innovative approaches to improving access, quality and cost, incentivizing new models of care, and transforming existing models of care. As you know, with the implementation of the ACA, healthcare is changing at a rapid pace and many rural healthcare stakeholders struggle with how to meet current requirements and demands while looking towards and preparing for the future. The brief states that “the current rural safety net programs are not structured for success in this new environment.” How do we utilize this information to help inform and guide our work? We need a way to “outline a meaningful phased and non-destructive transition strategy that successfully links today’s payment and patient care delivery structures to the health care systems of the future.” Easier said than done. The following covers CRHC’s plan on helping you succeed given the challenges detailed in The Future of Rural Health.

In Colorado, despite the current volume-based payment mechanism and lack of capital, rural hospitals and clinics are moving towards new models of care such as patient-centered medical home, care coordination and quality reporting. This is a delicate balance, since many of our rural hospitals and clinics are facing increasing fiscal limitations. Did you know that CRHC has a financial workgroup that meets quarterly to discuss challenges, opportunities, and current best practices? We are utilizing financial data from iVantage to inform these conversations and will be aggregating this data to inform policy makers on the Hill in Washington D.C. next month (February 5th). CRHC is also developing reports intricately examining rural health data to inform community conversations and create evidence-based model change innovation. Be on the lookout in our Special Delivery for release date. Health Information Technology is here to stay and almost all of the rural hospitals and over half of the rural health providers that CRHC has worked with have achieved Stage 1 meaningful use. While technology is frustrating and very expensive, rural Colorado has faced this challenge just like we always do, with flexibility and perseverance – equaling success.

“The need for transitional support cannot be over emphasized, noting rural payment and delivery policies must preserve what we have until we have clarity of where we are going.” We must keep the current payment structure while the future is being planned! This is vital for access, for care, and for the economic success in our rural communities. CRHC will be the primary source to advocate on your behalf! “The goal of rural health advocates should be to improve the health of rural people.” CRHC’s mission is to enhance healthcare services in the state by providing information, education, linkages, tools, and energy toward addressing rural health issues. Since 1991, our mission has remained relevant and even more so today.

Primary care is the key – it’s what you do best and what the future holds. Capitalize on this, use it to sustain the health of your population, grow your services, and help your communities thrive. Has your clinic received a CRHC administered Healthy Clinic Assessment (HCA)? If not reach out and improve your processes and systems to build and strengthen the foundation for the future. You can then focus on patient centered medical home (PCMH), quality improvement and ultimately care coordination. Did you know that two Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) in Colorado have achieved NCQA PCMH Level 3 status? So can you! Did you know that seventeen clinics and hospitals are participating in CRHC’s iCARE program focusing on improving care coordination, improving communications, and diabetic outcomes, while decreasing incidences of heart failure, pneumonia, and hospital readmission rates? If you haven’t gotten involved reach out today! Of course none of this is possible if you don’t have providers. The Colorado Provider Recruitment (CPR) team at CRHC is here to assist you in finding the right clinician. Contact them for immediate assistance.

You have the ability and the power to capitalize on these challenges. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary for survival, access, and care in rural Colorado. Together we can give more voice and power to rural!

Our strength is community.

Much is happening in healthcare. Check out my monthly CEO update for the latest in rural healthcare.


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