A chance encounter at a local store sparked a telehealth partnership between the Alabama Office of Rural Health (AL SORH) and Alabama Veterans Affairs (VA).
“A couple of years ago, I was out shopping on a Sunday night and ran into Dr. Randall Weaver, whom I hadn’t seen in awhile,” said Chuck Lail, AL SORH Director. Lail, a military veteran, already knew Weaver from the VA hospital where Lail has gone for his annual physicals. “I said to him, ‘We really need to get something going with the VA—I think there are good opportunities for telehealth.’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you call me and we’ll explore it.’ ”
“Our office has always been a strong advocate of telehealth,” Lail continued. “The state health department was starting to install telehealth carts in our county health departments, so I thought there might be an opportunity to marry the needs of the VA with the county telehealth program.”
The Alabama SORH has the advantage of being located within the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), explained Rob Boyles, PCO Program Manager at the AL SORH. “We have access to other divisions and bureaus, including the Distance Learning and Telehealth Division.”
With the aim of creating a partnership between ADPH and the VA, the two groups began having regularly scheduled telephone conferences, Boyles said. “We worked together to assess which rural county would be the best site to pilot the project, in terms of rurality, the number of Veterans, and the distance they travel for healthcare services.”
Through those discussions, Lail said, they determined that mental health services would be a good place to start. “It seemed to be one of the greatest needs of the VA,” Lail explained. “And telemental health and delivery of telepsychiatry have been proven to be deliverable seamlessly over telehealth media.” The long-term objective of the program, he said, is to expand beyond mental health to many types of services for VA telehealth delivery.
Cullman County Health Department was the site of the first VA telehealth pilot, which began in spring 2017. The VA provided the services, Lail said, while ADPH facilitated the telehealth encounter. “Veterans there can visit their local county health department and have a virtual visit with their mental health care team from the Birmingham VA,” he said.
An initial evaluation by participants at the pilot site was done via an informal survey, Lail said. “The veterans stated that they were pleased with their telehealth consults, and that they liked being able to receive services from the VA at their local county health department,” he said.
Michael Smith, ADPH Telehealth Program (ADPHTP) Director, said the county telehealth program has benefited from having funding from a variety of sources. “In Alabama, we’ve had telehealth with small networks,” Smith said. “You wrote a grant, the grant ended and the funding went away, and then the technology got pushed into a corner. But ADPHTP has been aggressive in terms of expanding our sites at county health departments and collaborating with health care providers.”
Smith said the expansion of the county telehealth program has been possible through several infrastructure grants from organizations including: the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Centers for Disease Control (PHHS Block Grant), and the USDA (Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants); and from AL-ORH, using federal Health Resources Services Administration funding (SORH and Primary Care Office grants). Each grant award, Smith said, has funded a number of telehealth carts given to county health departments. “We’ll have a total of 60 county health departments with telehealth carts by this summer,” he said. Alabama has 67 counties.
“We’re looking at health departments to be single point of entry for a variety of services for all patients, such as counseling prior to a procedure, mental health services, genetic counseling, maternal fetal medicine, and pediatric neurology,” Smith said. “Patients shouldn’t have to travel a long distance for a routine appointment that can be just as successfully achieved via telehealth technology.
Lail reflected on the chance meeting that started it all. “It can be a small world,” he said. “Dr. Weaver and I had been acquaintances for some time. It was from that rapport that the rest of this story sprang.”
The agendas are coming together for the Design and Dissemination Studios (DDS) for Region A in Charlottesville, VA on June 12th and in Region D for Little Rock, AR on June 25th. NOSORH and Rural PREP are still seeking potential researchers to join the agenda for the DDS. Funding is available to support travel. If you or someone you know is doing research in rural workforce-related areas, please contact Matt Strycker at email@example.com.
Paulius Mui, a first-year medical student at Medical College of Virginia, with a micro research project in progress titled “How do rural communities deal with losing their physician?”, will be one of the researchers on the agenda at the Region A DDS. His project examines how the looming shortages of rural physicians compound the myriad of existing healthcare challenges faced by rural patients. Understanding the perspective of rural residents and giving them a voice is an essential element in designing patient-centered solutions to improve health outcomes in rural communities.
The DDS at the Region D meeting will feature Enrique Camacho Jr, D. O., FM Resident (and his research mentor, Suporn Sukpraprut-Braaten, MSc, Ph.D.) presenting on their completed research: “Efficacy of OMT on Reducing Opioid Use in Patients with Chronic Back Pain.” Osteopathic spinal manipulation may be effectively incorporated in the clinical setting to safely reduce a patient’s dependency on opioid medications for treatment of their chronic back pain on selected patients.
Click here to register for the Region A or D Design and Dissemination Studios. Ten travel scholarships of up to $500 each are available for any rural stakeholder to attend each region, meaning twenty travel scholarships total. You do not have to be a part of Region A or D to attend this DDS, all stakeholders are welcome!
NOSORH has partnered with the Association for Rural Health Professional Coding (ARHPC) to offer a $200 discount on a NEW online self-study course for rural healthcare professionals to attain certification as a Rural Coding & Billing Specialist. This is the first online clinical documentation, coding and billing training specific to rural health and is a great opportunity for anyone working in rural health care, including providers! State Offices of Rural Health and other organizations can register multiple people for this opportunity.
Use the coupon code 200offNOSORH to receive this member benefit (registration is regularly priced at $899).
Feel free to share this informational flyer with your rural constituents.
To enroll, go to https://arhpc.absorbtraining.com
Contact Kassie Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
NOSORH recently worked with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to produce a video and factsheet to promote the important collaboration of State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) and Community-Based Division (CBD) Grantees. The CBD Factsheet can be forwarded to all CBD Grantees in every state to encourage greater collaboration and partnership with SORHs to help foster innovation and strengthen grant activities and outcomes.
The accompanying video highlights an example of successful collaboration between the Kentucky SORH and a community-based organization, demonstrating successful partnership opportunities and innovative approaches to improving health of rural communities. Many thanks to the Kentucky SORH for their efforts in pulling together this video and for the great work they do with CBD grantees.
NOSORH has additional resources available to help SORH when working with CBD grantees or potential grantees, including a letter of support template on the NOSORH website. NOSORH will continue to work with FORHP to ensure SORH have the resources and tools they need to expand on their work with CBD grantees.
The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health has partnered with Lilypad, LLC to implement the Practice Operations National Database (POND™) program, a web-based data collection, reporting and benchmarking application for rural primary care providers. POND is a unique benchmarking program which focuses on rural-relevant financial, operational, productivity and compensation measures. POND provides a vehicle for rural practices to selectively share blinded operational and productivity data and to use peer benchmark information to guide improvements in performance and inform recruitment/retention and hospital-physician alignment activities.
POND will benefit SORHs wishing to:
POND provides an easy, consistent approach to engage RHCs and other primary care providers. It can also be used to promote community between rural primary care providers through data-based discussions and can establish the SORH as a source of relevant and unique resources.
Annual fees for SORHs are $2500 for states with fewer than 90 RHCs and $3500 for states with more than 90 RHCs. This annual fee enables all rural primary care practices in your state to participate in POND.
If you have any additional questions, contact Kassie Clarke.
Those who dedicate their life’s work to rural health are extraordinary people whose contributions are deserving of recognition. To honor our nation’s rural health leaders the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) is proud to present “Community Stars,” a collection of touching and impactful stories that embody the true Power of Rural.
Community Stars is an electronic publication that is released on National Rural Health Day each year. Those featured in the book were nominated by a member of their State Office of Rural Health (SORH), a community member, or peer. Each Community Star profile is a shining example of their generosity, service, and dedication to the people who call rural America home. We thank all those who nominated a Community Star and we’re eager to have you meet them as we celebrate National Rural Health Day and the Power of Rural!
We are pleased to announce the 2017 Community Stars! Read their stories by clicking below
NOSORH is proud to announce the release of a report on the lessons learned from the Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal grants. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy awarded grants to 18 organizations to combat the impact of opioid overdose at the community level. Awardees in the pilot project were funded to increase the availability and utilization of naloxone and to focus on the importance of referring individuals dependent on opioids to an appropriate substance abuse treatment center. Awardees freely shared lessons learned and educational resources developed. “This is a great compilation of the excellent work that can be conducted to build collaboration in rural communities,” said Teryl Eisinger, NOSORH Executive Director.
The report is available here on the NOSORH website. Stay tuned for more information on a webinar that will be held later this month to learn more about the resources and the report.
NOSORH is excited to announce a reduced pricing option for Tableau software available to NOSORH members. Tableau is a data analytics and visualization software used by thousands of companies across the globe and is known for its drag and drop capabilities. It does not require any prior coding knowledge.
To see Tableau in action, check out their many videos and demonstrations at: https://www.tableau.com/products/desktop
For more information on this Tableau opportunity, check out the pricing fact sheet, registration and End User License Agreement (EULA) on the NOSORH website at: https://nosorh.org/tableau-resources/