Legislators, Hospitals Announce Funding for Rural Healthcare Transformation in Budget

April 26, 2016
Salem, Oregon

Senator Alan Bates and Representative Nancy Nathanson along with Oregon’s rural hospitals announced the inclusion of $10 million in the state’s recent budget to fund projects designed to help ensure the sustainability of rural health care. The projects were developed during an exhaustive listening tour and process conducted in a partnership between the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Oregon Office of Rural Health (ORH), and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS).

“These investments in our rural health will improve lives and economies,” said Senator Alan Bates, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, who helped shepherd the projects through the legislature.  “Health systems are not one size fits all and I am glad to see rural areas getting specific tools to meet their needs. “

“I applaud these organizations for their dedication to finding ways to transform rural health care in Oregon,” said Representative Nancy Nathanson, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, who was a key champion of the funding. “I’m proud to support these investments which will have long-term benefits for health care access in rural Oregon.”

 “Oregon’s rural hospitals are grateful for this opportunity and the support for rural health care from the legislature,” said Rick Yecny, Chief Administrative Officer of PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Hospital in Florence, Oregon, who chairs the OAHHS Small and Rural Hospital Committee. “Oregon’s small and rural hospitals face a difficult task in ensuring they transform to meet the needs of the modern health care system while staying financially viable. The programs envisioned will accelerate that process and ensure Oregon’s rural residents continue to receive top-notch health care in the communities where they live.”

The programs funded through this legislation focus topics such as:

  • Workforce shortages, recruitment and retention of providers, increasing graduate medical training capacity;
  • Access to health care in rural communities, and strategies to sustain local health care services;
  • Professional development training for population health and volume-to-value care and the ongoing adoption of transformative practices in rural communities.

All the programs rely on:

  • Partnerships with organizations that have existing expertise and are utilizing national experts;
  • Programs that have a demonstrated track record of success in other states and provided several different opportunities for hospitals to get engaged depending on their needs.

The four programs set out in the legislation are:

Launching a Transitional Post-Acute Care program in partnership with Mayo Clinic

This program will hire a consultant to help hospitals to establish transitional post-acute care programs. It is based on a successful transitional post-acute care model developed in Midwestern hospitals. The goal is to improve readmission, increase patient satisfaction, and transition care for patients back to their rural communities to increase hospital throughput by freeing up capacity in urban settings and reducing cost to the patient with local care and decreased transportation.

Support for the Oregon Graduate Medical Education (GME) Consortium

The successful operationalization of the Oregon GME Consortium will help bolster the number of GME slots in Oregon. This is a short term action that will have long-term rewards through an increase in primary care providers with a special focus on rural training tracks.

Population health education and coaching for all rural health care providers and leaders

This program will address knowledge gaps that hinder the spread of the coordinated care model and build a shared platform of knowledge about population health to stimulate effective investment in improvement strategies. The result will be a certification via a multi-week educational platform including small group training and coaching focused on rural outcomes.

Implementation of virtual clinics

This new care delivery model will bolster urgent care and/or afterhours access to care without additional brick-and-mortar facilities. A virtual clinic is staffed around the clock and offers patients visits via videoconference or telephone. This is a short-term access solution that brings up to 20 providers to our rural communities immediately through a virtual office, with the effect of redirecting care to a more appropriate setting.

“We are very appreciative for the legislature for their support of these important projects,” added Rick Yecny on behalf of Oregon’s rural hospitals and health care providers. “We look forward to implementing these programs and sharing the positive results upon their completion. In the end, we know the outcome will be a healthier rural Oregon, with greater access to care in rural communities.”

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Philip Schmidt
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Andy Van Pelt
Executive Vice President
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