Population Health Is An Opportunity for Rural Health

By Beth Nelson

Despite continuing speculation that the move toward population health is problematic for rural hospitals and healthcare systems (ie, those with small populations), the emergence of new and innovative programs by some providers indicates otherwise.

Witt/Kieffer's Beth Nelson

Beth Nelson

While disruptive change will continue, rural hospitals and health systems that embrace the right population health strategies, and recruit the right leaders to implement those strategies, can seize opportunities. This was one theme that was shared during last week’s AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference.

I recently had the opportunity to co-author an article with Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health and Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenfield, Indiana, regarding new strategies that rural health organizations are implementing – in “Population Health Is For Rural Hospitals, Too” in the February 2017 issue of Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. Ideas discussed which Hancock and other organizations are pursuing include:

  1. Renewing a focus on key success factors for fee-for-service reimbursement
  2. Intensifying attention on process-of-care metrics
  3. Aggressive physician integration with focus on prevention and wellness
  4. Expanded community care coordination

These initiatives don’t just show Hancock’s commitment to population health, but equally significant, make sense for Hancock in the marketplace.

This doesn’t happen without the right leadership. Successful rural health leaders have to be both old-school and progressive. Ultimately, the best leaders will be those who are comfortable with traditional fee-for-service reimbursement, and ready to explore new ideas and tactics.

Beth Nelson is a consultant in Witt/Kieffer’s Healthcare practice.

Previous articles from Beth Nelson on rural healthcare leadership:

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