CEO Update: Rural Health Clinics (RHC), Humility, and Telling Your Story

Rural Health Clinics (RHC), Humility, and Telling Your Story

All my life I was taught to be humble. I was told never to gloat or overly celebrate accomplishments when you do something special.  I was taught that talking about yourself or your successes is showing off, and it is always best to let the work speak for itself.  I believe many of our rural folks grew up with the same lesson. While there are many times in life when it is best to let your work and success speak for itself, there are times when others need to hear about how hard you work and what it takes to succeed. The work happening in rural Colorado needs to be talked about. We must embrace our story with our challenges and especially with our successes. If we don’t tell our story, who will? Let’s start telling our stories. This month, let’s start telling the story of our Rural Health Clinics.

The RHC program began in 1977 to support and encourage access to primary healthcare services for rural residents.  An RHC is a federal designation that applies to a primary care clinic located in a non-urbanized area.  RHCs must employ an advanced practice nurse, a physician assistant or a certified nurse midwife at least 50 percent of the time the clinic is open.  RHCs receive no additional federal funding and this is why they are extremely vulnerable to local and state funding cuts. This is why we must tell our story, especially the story of RHCs. We have 48 RHCs in Colorado in 29 counties. RHCs in Colorado serve approximately 194,400 unique patients per year with 630,560 annual visits. Those 194,400 each have their own story and we must continue to tell their story, their clinic’s story, their community’s story, so that they continue to get the quality healthcare every Coloradan deserves.

RHCs in Colorado are helping to transform healthcare by participating in several initiatives involving practice transformation.  Practice transformation is an initiative advanced by the Affordable Care Act to enhance the quality of care, promote care coordination, and reduce the cost, you have probably heard this referred to as the Triple Aim.  Practice transformation is a systems solutions approach. Five RHCs have become patient centered medical homes, which is a NCQA accredited recognition. RHCs also are participating in behavioral health integration, operation work-flow, quality and business operations. In so many ways, they are at the forefront of the way we care for patients – and we need to keep telling their stories.

CRHC works closely with clinics on practice transformation and has been assisting them with healthy clinic assessments (HCA) for over seven years. The HCA looks at the basic business operations of a clinic and provides an assessment on areas of success and opportunities for improvement.  Over the past seven years CRHC has conducted well over 100 of these assessments as a way to assist RHCs with building a strong foundation for sustainability.  By working towards building a strong foundation, RHCs can then focus on furthering practice transformation by participating in quality improvement and data collection efforts.

CRHC is headed into its seventh year of the Improving Communications and Readmissions Program (iCARE), which is focused on improving communications in transitions of care, improving quality in heart failure, pneumonia, diabetes and readmission rates.  Three years ago, CRHC opened the iCARE program to RHCs and today we have 30 RHCs participating. Since 2013, there has been a 32 percent improvement of patients with a reported LDL below the national benchmark with the median rate hovering around 80 percent. This is a story worth telling.

In less than a month, we will celebrate Safety Net Clinic Week. It began six years ago as an opportunity to look into the unique challenges facing healthcare in rural Colorado and a special glimpse into rural life. It gives our communities a chance to tell their story. This year Safety Net Clinic Week is August 15 – 19, and CRHC is hosting a Rural Health Clinic Community Showcase to highlight the Basin, Rangely, Eads, and Conejos clinics.  This will provide a unique insight into the communities who humbly take care of their communities. It will give them a chance to tell their story by taking a tour of Rural Health Clinics without the travel on Friday, August 19th from 9:00 am – 11:00 am at CRHC offices, 3033 S. Parker Road, Suite 606, Aurora, CO.  We hope you join us, RSVP at



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