NRHA Celebrates National Rural Hospital Week & National Rural Health Day
In celebration of National Rural Hospital Week, NRHA has partnered with the Federation of American Hospitals to recognize the inspiring efforts of some of NRHA's members. We are excited to share their stories with you, shining a light on those who are working to improve the health and well-being of millions in America’s rural communities, and to highlight the incredible power of rural.
Health and the delivery of healthcare in rural America is unique to each community, and the power of an individual becomes evident as the need for innovation grows. While we celebrate the dedication and creativity of each of our rural health champions, their stories also demonstrate the power of partnerships. An idea that can transform how health care is delivered often begins with an individual but is manifested through collaboration. The following stories demonstrate how a variety of dedicated rural advocates and local partners are using their rural health care delivery systems to improve the health and well-being of the communities they serve:
Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services (GAHHS) has successfully grown the number of healthcare services offered, in a time when rural communities often have a shortage of access. Under the leadership and teamwork of Rob Schmitt CEO and Robin Rose COO, this facility has successfully expanded their family and maternity care services, increased the number of rural health clinics, and added a dental clinic to provide rural dentistry. This, in turn, has attracted more obstetricians, orthopedics, dentists, and family practitioners, who now offer services to GAHHS’s rural community.
When Pat Schou established the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), she gave hospitals a unified voice that could speak to the unique needs of rural healthcare. ICAHN allows rural hospitals to share resources and support each other, moving towards a collaborative system of care that combats the geographic and financial-related deficits often faced by rural health providers. As it seeks to strengthen Illinois Critical Access Hospitals, ICAHN is creating new ways for these hospitals to provide high quality, sustainable healthcare services to their communities.
Under Tim Putnam’s leadership, Margaret Mary Health (MMH) was named one of the top critical access hospitals in the United States in 2019. The successful population health strategies championed at this facility include annual wellness visits, wellness programs, partnerships with local employers to strengthen wellness in the workplace, and increasing access to physician offices in local communities. Margaret Mary Health’s continued emphasis on wellness creates close relationships between patients and providers, even when a patient is not sick. Their recommended annual visits sustain connections between providers and patient populations, ultimately leading to improvements in the quality and culture of care in their rural community.
Nikki King, also from Margaret Mary Health, is rural advocate that has helped implement a new addiction management model. Seeking to reduce the risk of opioid addiction, the Opiate and Other Controlled Substances (OOCS) guidelines assist providers and patients in choosing methods of pain treatment by advising them on dosage, duration, and when and how to reassess progress or discontinue medication if needed. This program incorporates therapy, skills training, guest speakers, and involves the community with peer and family support. CADS has seen an 80% completion rate: a number twice the 40% completion rate of similar national programs. The commitment to rural health at MMH is changing the culture of addiction while setting a model for local partnerships, and innovative ways to advance rural public health.
Toby Freier and the rest of the leadership at New Ulm Medical Center are celebrated for bringing innovation and creative health delivery models to their rural community. New Ulm Medical Center has been recognized as a fully-integrated rural delivery system and as a national leader in advancing population health due to the community-driven Heart of New Ulm project. This project has been a ten-year population health demonstration, which focused on the social determinants of health within the community. A partnership was formed between the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, New Ulm Medical Center and the community for the provision of education, medical interventions, and policy and environmental changes. Due to this innovative model of care, New Ulm has had significant improvement in the level of hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, and physical activity among their patients. New Ulm has demonstrated that the impacts of innovative thinking and collaboration can have an impact on the health an entire community.
During this year’s National Rural Hospital Week, and in anticipation of National Rural Health Day on November 21st, we proudly celebrate the incredible power of rural. The stories of these dedicated individuals, powerful partnerships, and innovative models of care demonstrate that health and healthcare in these communities can flourish (not in spite of but) due to the unique nature of their rurality.