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Healthcare Network Takes Bold Steps to Improve Access in Rural Oklahoma

September 20, 2013

The Southeast Oklahoma Rural Health Network (SORHN), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, recently changed its name to Rural Health Network (RHN) of Oklahoma. The change comes as efforts increase to improve access to health care for individuals living in Southeast Oklahoma and surrounding areas. RHN members include: Choctaw Memorial Hospital, Pushmataha Family Medical Center, Pushmataha Hospital, McCurtain County Hospital, Kiamichi Family Medical Center and Little Dixie Action Agency, Inc. RHN will be soon adding a critical access hospital and an additional hospital to its network.

Health Information Exchange
In concert with its mission to work collaboratively with healthcare and community organizations to improve the health or rural Oklahoma, one of RHN’s initial projects was helping its members integrate with a Health Information Exchange (HIE), called MyHealth Access. An HIE is a centralized system for storing healthcare information electronically across organizations within a region, community or hospital system.

The goal is to provide easy access to clinical data in a manner that is safe, secure, timely and efficient so that patient-centered care and continuity of patient care is the main focus. This data could include patient history, doctor’s notes, medications, allergies and other pertinent information. HIEs are designed to reduce duplicative services, medical errors and other problems that could compromise patient health while reducing health care costs.

RHN’s role was to establish collaborations with hospitals, physicians, insurers and other caregivers for HIE access.

“Health information technology affords us the means to improve efficiencies as it relates to patient records,” said RHN Director Stacie Pace. “If a doctor has the full scope of a patient’s history, whether in the emergency room or during a regular primary care visit, that patient-provider experience is improved exponentially. A complete patient record reduces medical errors, duplicative services which cost both the patient and doctor time and money.”
Since this initiative began, RHN’s provider-members have integrated with MyHealth Access Network, or are close to completing implementation. RHN provides HIE discounts to its members.

Electronic Medical Records: Health care reform has made it necessary for rural health networks like RHN to a play a major role in helping providers meet meaningful use standards, a mandate of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In July of 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established three stages of meaningful use: use of electronic health records (EHRs) in a meaningful manner; electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of patient care; and use of EHRs in a manner that allows providers to demonstrate quality clinical measures. Incentive plans are available for eligible providers to implement EHRs. However, those who do not may be subject to a financial penalty.

RHN provides IT services to help providers effectively implement EHRs and circumvent workflow issues. This service includes everything from help with selecting the right EHR provider to rolling out a full EHR system that meets meaningful use standards. Staff training and ongoing consultation are provided. “We can literally deploy an IT team to help providers integrate with an EHR system, and handhold staff post implementation to ensure all involved are properly acclimated,” Pace said. “Undoubtedly, there are learning curves. Workflow and interoperability issues are among the hurdles. However, we are equipped to help make sense out of EHR adoption so that Medicare and Medicaid eligible providers can meet meaningful use stands and receive financial incentives as opposed to financial penalties.”

Health Reform: ACA Health Insurance Marketplace: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is another initiative that RHN will play an active role. “Our goal is to simply present the facts,” Pace said. “We will take an unbiased stance to ensure communities understand ACA mandates and the Health Insurance Marketplace. We will also partner with Little Dixie, a recent recipient of a grant to serve as a Health Insurance Marketplace navigator.” Navigators must undergo several hours of training for certification. Their role is to help individuals, families and small business enroll in the Marketplace which opens October 1, 2013.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Another project RHN will take on is helping doctors, patients, pharmacists and law enforcement combat prescription drug abuse. With support from grant funds, RHN will leverage a speaking circuit to address this issue along with several county health improvement organizations (CHIOS) to get the word out. “In Oklahoma, we know that more overdose deaths are due to hydrocodone than methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine—combined,” Pace said. “This is a huge problem. Education – on every level – is the key to reducing incidences of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths.”

Human Resource Compliance: Protecting companies from workforce-related compliance issues is another service RHN provides. Its Human Resources Compliance System is designed to help health systems, organizations and businesses operate under current law. The system offers an automated, turnkey and in some instances, paperless approach to handbooks, forms, employee files and other resources that help businesses stay fully compliant with new laws, court rulings and other critical issues that could jeopardize a company’s reputation and finances. “We’ve created a cost-effective way for companies to stay compliant with ever-changing regulations,” Pace said. “This system offers peace of mind during audits or even in the case of an employee lawsuit.”

Member Services: “As we take some bold steps to push RHN out into the forefront, we also have our members in mind,” Pace said. “We will be promoting their services to increase awareness about what’s available to consumers. We want to help promote our members’ successes, too. We are all in this together. When one of us wins, we all win.”
Pace also said RHN is unwrapping an integrated marketing campaign to promote member services, network programs, services, and a new, user-friendly web site.

For more information, contact Stacie Pace at 580.326.3351(office), 580.372.0966 (cell), or Stacie@RHNofOklahoma.org. RHN will soon unveil RHNofOklahoma.org.

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