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Rural Health Day spotlights Healthcare in Rural Communities

November 27, 2017

Hospitals and clinics around the United States observed National Rural Health Day this past Thursday, Nov. 16. The annual observance focuses on telling the stories of healthcare delivery in rural settings where options for care are significantly less than metropolitan areas. For Saline County and our neighboring counties, managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and obesity are a primary focus for Fitzgibbon Hospital and its rural health clinics like Marshall Family Practice, Akeman-McBurney Medical Clinic in Slater, Grand River Medical Clinic in Brunswick+ and Fitzgibbon Family Health in Fayette.

            “Our county and our neighboring counties in west central Missouri have a moderately high percentage of residents in the lower socioeconomic scale. These individuals are often covered by Medicaid, or they fall within the gap where insurance affordability is a significant challenge for them,” said Darin Haug, D.O., President and CEO of Fitzgibbon Hospital. “Because of this disparity, we often see disease states and conditions that are preventable or manageable by a physician or provider, but these people often postpone care until their condition has advanced to a more challenging level.”

            Disease management is one of the primary benefits of seeing a physician/provider in a “Patient Centered Medical Home” like Marshall Family Practice. A Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) is a model of care that utilizes a team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and care coordinators to help patients take control of their health by setting goals and providing support. This multi-provider model ultimately improves health and wellness and reduces emergency room visits and hospitalizations for conditions resulting from mismanagement or neglect of chronic conditions such as diabetes and COPD. This lowers the cost of care while also improving access to care, especially in rural settings where access to care may be more limited.

            Approximately 62 million people, or one-in-five, live in rural areas across the U.S.. However, much of the focus for healthcare services and initiatives involve metropolitan or urban areas. Additionally, with declining reimbursement rates and increased regulation and guidelines, an increasing challenge exists for providers in rural areas with more limited resources.

            “We have been fortunate at Fitzgibbon Hospital to have such tremendous support from our community. Combining this with the culture of family and community in our hospital and the dedication of our physicians, providers and staff to providing quality, compassionate care has allowed us to meet many of the challenges facing other communities. However, we are constantly evaluating what we can do to improve the quality and accessibility of care for our friends and neighbors,” said Dr. Haug.

            Fitzgibbon Hospital and clinics recently completed migration of a complete electronic health record, combining eight systems throughout the organization into one solution called Cerner Community Works. The magnitude of this type of system implementation, which ultimately took three years, can present an overwhelming challenge to many rural hospitals and clinics. Yet the staff at Fitzgibbon Hospital rose to the challenge, and the migration went surprisingly smooth for such an all-encompassing upgrade.

            “I regularly hear from other hospital CEOs in rural communities throughout our state who are financially constrained, especially with the resources required for equipment, technology and the electronic health record. We have been blessed at Fitzgibbon to continue to be on the leading edge of healthcare delivery in so many ways, despite the challenges of being an independent hospital in a rural setting,” said Dr. Haug. “Our focus on patient care and having the necessary facilities and technology to be successful with this has allowed us to recruit and retain the physician, provider, and nursing staff we are so fortunate to have in our community. There is a reason why people choose to live in rural areas, and there is a spirit of community and family that exists like no other place. Fitzgibbon Hospital is here to help serve and care for our community so our families continue to remain strong and resilient.”

            Fitzgibbon Hospital, as part of its National Rural Health day observance, launched its annual food drive on Nov. 16. The annual drive, part of giving back to the community, will last until Monday, Dec. 4 with all food collected being delivered to the Saline County Holiday Project.