Recently, a tragedy struck my community in Parker, Colorado where three high school boys were involved. Three teenaged boys fell into a lake, and our town lost two of them to complications. In light of the catastrophic event, we have rallied to help one another as neighbors, as friends of these boys and their families by asking them what they need — what matters to them. I’m honored to be part of such a giving and caring community.
This event has made me reflect on the innate dynamics I see in our rural communities. Rural hospitals and clinics are also neighbors, caretakers, and confidants to one another. It comes naturally, which makes me proud to work and advocate for you. Giving, caring and making a difference in the lives of people for the better is how we connect at CRHC with all of our rural communities. Because we believe in rural, we are committed to making rural healthcare sustainable. The CRHC Board has set this as a key driver for the next three years, using the concept of community as the value base.
While I’m thinking about recent events, your mission as healthcare providers, and ours as your rural health association, I’m reminded of a presentation that I heard during the recent Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) conference and that I mentioned last month. As you’ll recall, IHI’s CEO spoke of the importance of focusing on patient perspective. Instead of saying or asking “what’s the matter,” we as healthcare providers should be asking “what matters to you.” This can and should completely change how you and your patients interact. The support my community showed the families of the boys is what matters to me.
In rural Colorado you have the opportunity to not only ask what matters to your patients, but the ability to see the results first hand, through data. Remember when you are getting stressed by all the data that the government is asking of you, that you are doing this for the teacher, neighbor, fire fighter, and others in your community. Over 75 percent of Colorado’s landmass is rural, but only 15 percent of Coloradans call these 47 rural and frontier counties home. As rural healthcare providers, you work with a large and growing percentage of the aging population at greater risk of chronic illness. The expansion of Medicaid has brought additional younger patients, yet also with higher prevalence rates of chronic illness, into your organization. In Colorado, Medicaid enrollment is 17.3 percent, compared to 21.7 percent in rural areas of the state. The results of these numbers are barriers that often result in a fragmented delivery system. However, you are not alone in your battle to not only sustain rural healthcare, but to move forward through innovative approaches.
As you are reviewing data and working toward your patient centered medical home approach, you have the opportunity to work individually with patients by simply asking them “what matters to them.” Through this approach you can achieve greater patient compliance to their care plans, which helps you provide better quality and assists the patient to get to their grandkids football game to cheer them on. If you are trying to determine what the data means or how to get access to that data, remember we are here to help you as your State Office of Rural Health. We have expertise in analyzing the data and helping you get data out of your system.
We have pledged our careers to making other’s lives better. Know that CRHC is here to help you in your journey and help every rural community remain sustainable.
Hope and prosperity in the New Year!