Unique Geography — United Purpose
The 23nd Annual Oregon Rural Health Conference, sponsored by the Oregon Office of Rural Health, the Oregon Rural Health Association, the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network and the Oregon Area Health Education Centers, took place November 2 – 4, 2006 at the Best Western Agate Beach Inn in Newport, Oregon.
“Unique Geography—United Purpose” gave the opportunity to look at the successes and challenges we face throughout Oregon despite the challenging geography.
Kassie Clarke, Community Grants Coordinator, Oregon Office of Rural Health provided an update on the FLEX program and discussed funding opportunities for the 06-07 grant year. In addition, Keith Mueller from RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis presented findings of the recent evaluation of Oregon’s Flex program. This meeting provided a great opportunity to shape the development of future FLEX program activities in Oregon.
The Oregon Rural Healthcare Quality Network (ORHQN), an independent network of Critical Access and small Rural PPS hospitals committed to working together to share and develop resources, hosted an informative session that included discussion on the peer review project, core measures reporting, and benchmarking. Participants learned about crosscutting performance measures that demonstrated quality in rural settings. The session included focused strategic planning and performance measurements with sample dashboard reporting, tools and metrics.
The 2006 Independent Rural Health Clinic (RHC) Workshop focused on priority topics as reported in an informal survey of RHCs. This year’s workshop included 2006 OMAP billing guidelines, survey and certification of RHCs, and cost report and billing information. As always, the RHC workshop provided an opportunity to review important information and connect with other clinics around the state of Oregon.
The concurrent sessions of the conference included;
- Legislative Agenda Strategy, an opportunity to hear from legislators and lobbyist about what to expect from the 2006 election and how it will impact health care in the 2007 Legislature;
- Medication Safety for Rural Elders-An Oregon Community Approach, was a panel discussion of community-wide projects funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
- Hot Topics, the chance for participants to talk about the issues they feel need to be addressed;
- Problems Searching for Solutions: Mental and Dental Health in Rural Oregon, addressing the important and often overlooked issue of dental and mental health needs in rural Oregon;
- Successful Coordination Between Local Health Departments and Primary Care Providers, panelist of private and public health professionals sharing successful collaborations and challenges;
- Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), addressing the issues of end of life planning;
- Strategies for Meeting Rural Oregon's Health Care Needs, discussions of the current workforce shortage and predictions for supply and demand over the next 20 years and strategies for growing Oregon's rural physician workforce, including regionalization of medical education;
- Breakfast Roundtables, an opportunity to discuss the previous days sessions;
- Enhancing the Quality and Safety of Rural Health Care through Information Technology-Lessons from AHRQ, an opportunity to hear from the nation’s leading research agency on health care quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness.
At the opening day conference luncheon, the Oregon Rural Health Conference Awardees were honored. Eastern Oregon Medical Associates (EOMA) won the Outstanding Rural Health Practice award. This award recognizes a rural health practice, group or individual that has improved access to health services and information for rural populations through innovative and comprehensive approaches. Factors considered include outreach, preventive health and education, quality and efficiency of care, and strong community support and involvement.
Two of the many factors used to determine this award are innovative approaches and outreach. EOMA has truly met this test—from support of high school athletics and drug prevention programs, support of research, public health activities and support to other rural communities throughout the county. Congratulations on being such an outstanding rural practice.
Dr. Sandra Dunbrasky won the Rural Health Practitioner of the Year award. This award recognizes a direct service provider for leadership in bringing health services to rural populations. This year’s winner has provided outstanding care, been involved in the community and has made lasting contributions to the health care system.
After attending one the of the country’s top medical universities, Dr. Dunbrasky returned home to Ontario to work with children, not just as a provider, but as an advocate. She brought together the medical community and various agencies to serve kids better by founding the Community Connection Network. As one person noted, “Dr. Dunbrasky is the archetype on which all rural doctors should be formed.”
This year, we were honored to have two winners of the Outstanding Contribution to Rural Health in Oregon awards. This award recognizes an individual(s) who has made a distinguished, unique and exceptional contribution to improving the quality of life for rural Oregonians. Criteria may include going above and beyond expected job responsibilities, outstanding volunteerism, sustained and successful commitment to a particular issue or issues affecting rural health care, and long term impact of contribution.
Linda Lang, RN, has been instrumental in the development of the Oregon Rural Healthcare Quality Network (ORHQN)—a network designed to improve the quality of health care in rural Oregon. Because of her leadership, Oregon is one of the few states to implement such an important program.
Dr.Tim Hindmarsh understands the importance of giving care to all Oregonians by founding the Diabetes Education Fund. Challenging his community to support those in need, he has performed an annual “Extreme Diabetes Decathlon”, completing ten extreme sports such as skydiving and barefoot waterskiing, all within a 24-hour period.
Again we were honored to have two winners of the Outstanding Clinical Administrator, Manager or Staff Support award. This award recognizes an individual rural clinic administrator, manager or staff support member whose dedication and skills are above and beyond the “normal call of duty” in keeping clinic operations seamless, allowing other staff to focus on individual areas of expertise and training.
A teacher, school principal, community activist, and First Responder, Anne Raftree has spent the last 20 years as an unpaid volunteer and Board Member of the McKenzie River Clinic. From go-between for staff and board, to scheduler, from trainer to financial guru, Anne Raftree has played a key role in keeping such a vital institution open and running for the community.
Jenifer Lanning has been described as, “having her finger on the pulse of Alsea” and the “adhesive that helps keep our Alsea Community together and healthy.” Described as the voice and face of the clinic, Jenifer’s attention to detail and careful bookkeeping has kept the Alsea clinic afloat. She goes above and beyond her duties; she does everything from managing to cleaning and even pulling the weeds!
Participants had an opportunity to hear from Dr. Peter Kohler, President Emeritus, OHSU. Dr. Kohler has been a long time supporter of rural health in Oregon. He helped arrange and support the move of the Oregon Office of Rural Health to OHSU. He also pushed for the creation of the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC). With support of the Oregon Opportunity, he also saw the development of the Oregon Rural Practice Research Network (ORPRN). While he is no longer President, he will continue working with OHSU in health care reform initiatives.
Participants were also given the opportunity to hear about the future with Dr. Joe Robertson, President of OHSU. Dr. Robertson took the reins on September 15, 2006. At the time of the conference, Dr. Robertson had spent more time in rural Oregon, listening to what people had to say, than in his new office. Dr. Robertson spoke of the importance of improving rural health care, in quality and access. He also addresses the shortages in all professions and how OHSU, working with rural communities, is working to address the problem.
The Friday Welcome Reception gave participants the opportunity to meet up with friends, talk about what they learned during the day, and talk to legislators and staff members of the sponsoring organizations. This was also a great opportunity for participants to meet and view all the vendors and their offerings.
This annual gathering of rural healthcare providers, administrators, researchers and advocates provides a unique opportunity for networking and an exchange of ideas that can be hindered by distance during the rest of the year. We look forward to hosting the 24th Annual Oregon Rural Health Conference, September 13 – 15, 2007 at the Salem Conference Center, Salem, Oregon.